Permitted Development

Deregulated planning system

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What are permitted development rights and how are they changing?

The UK government has announced plans to grease the wheels of the planning system in attempts to give property owners more flexibility to adapt buildings for purpose, as the country recovers from the impact of COVID-19.

The changes, known as Permitted Development, will allow homeowners to add an extra two floors to their houses and developers to knock down unused commercial premises and build residential units, without having to go through the full planning process.

The new rules, which are set take effect on 1st September, prevent local councils from opposing plans, provided that they meet certain conditions such as ensuring the provision of adequate natural light in habitable rooms.

Commenting on the deregulation, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC: “We are cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing.”

He added that the rights will see boarded-up buildings quickly re-purposed to revive ailing high streets and town centres and allow families to create additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows.

Concerns over standards

A number of industry bodies, including the Royal Institute of British Architects, have raised concerns that the new regulations could create the “slums of the future”.

RIBA’s professional services director Adrian Dobson said he fears the rules will see housing built which fails to meet even the most basic spatial, quality and environmental standards.

“Rather than driving a ‘green housing revolution’, the government’s plans to allow the demolition and replacement of industrial and commercial property with housing under permitted development would make it easier to build the slums of the future,” he added.

His concerns over quality standards appear to be valid, with a recent report highlighting the difference in residential accommodation constructed pursuant to permitted development rights, against those subject to full planning permission.

One of the most notable findings from the report was the stark contrast in relation to whether the units met the national described space standards, of which only 22.1% of units created through permitted development met standards compared to 73.4% created through full planning permission.

The report concluded the scheme has created worse homes – "affecting the health, wellbeing and quality of life of future occupiers".

Permitted development has existed in some form since the UK planning system was inaugurated in 1948. The most significant change to the law was in 2013 when converting offices to residential use without planning permission was introduced.

Image source: Shutterstock

A planning system ‘fit for the future’

The Housing Secretary has refuted criticisms of the move to deregulate planning, stressing that the country “must think boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future”.

It must also be stressed that there are a number of restrictions on the operation of the new rights, for example when it comes to increasing the size of homes, developers must source external materials which are similar to those in existence and that it must not include a window in any wall or part of the roof on a side elevation of the house.

An application for prior approval is necessary and can be refused by the local planning authority on the basis that the development does not comply with the extensive restrictions and conditions set out in the legislation.

If you’re planning to convert a commercial property for residential use, it’s crucial that you understand the changing risk and safeguard your property while the works are being carried out. Talk to the team at MS Amlin today to find out more.

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