Permitted Development Rights
Permitted development rights are new planning laws which are designed to speed up the planning and approval process for the construction of residential dwellings in England and Wales. Developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the economy, the new laws pertain specifically to commercial buildings and some form of residential buildings. The rights are aimed at repurposing vacant and redundant buildings and getting people living in new homes more quickly. What follows is a helpful summary guide to the new guidelines (2020 No.755 and 2020 No.756) surrounding permitted development rights.
What are Permitted Development Rights?
New rights put together by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which are a direct response to COVID-19, formulated to regenerate towns and cities following the pandemic. The rights will hopefully speed up the application process for converting abandoned buildings into homes. The hope is that new homes can be built and occupied sooner which in turn will regenerate the economy and town and city high streets.
Permitted development rights relate to properties which would previously have required a full planning application before the construction could begin. Under the new rights, a full application is not required, thus accelerating the entire process. The regulations are relevant to abandoned or unused commercial buildings which are converted into homes, and they allow for existing houses to be extended to provide more living space by constructing additional storeys.
Changes To Permitted Development Rights
Permitted development rights are different to the General Permitted Development Order which grants planning permission for a range of specific classes of development, subject to certain limitations and conditions. The main difference is that an application for planning permission does not need to be made to the local planning authority. In some cases, permitted development rights require the local planning authority to approve certain key planning matters before development can proceed. This is known as “prior approval”.
For detached houses, terraces and semi-detached houses of two or more houses, the right allows for the construction of up to two additional storeys on the topmost storey of a dwelling of two storeys or more, and an additional one storey on a dwelling of one storey, above ground level. The right does not apply to homes in use as a small house in multiple occupation, or change in that use.
Upward Extension – Two Storey Upward Extension Rights
Article 2020 No.755 introduces new permitted development rights to allow for the construction of additional storeys on free standing blocks and on buildings in a terrace that are houses or in certain commercial uses. The guidelines can also be extended to buildings that are in mixed uses with an element of housing. Local consideration of key planning matters is still taken into consideration, but full application for planning permission is not required for these types of development. In general, the plan is for the approval and construction process to be accelerated.
They also apply to shops, buildings housing financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, betting shops, payday loan shops and laundrettes. Also included are buildings in mixed use within these uses.
Buildings that are mixed use with an element of housing can extend upwards to create new self-contained homes. These are buildings in uses that are already able to change use to residential uses under existing permitted development rights.
Old to New – Demolish and Re-Build under Permitted Development Rights
Article 2020 No.756 introduces new permitted development rights to allow for the demolition of certain types of buildings and replacement build as residential to create new homes. These rights been introduced to stimulate regeneration of our towns and cities and deliver additional homes more easily as part of Government’s response to COVID 19. The rights pertain to vacant and redundant free-standing buildings, offices, research and development, industrial processes (light industrial), and free-standing purpose-built residential blocks of flats. This will increase number of houses that the Government promised to deliver. Unused buildings can either be converted or completely demolished according to the new legislation, provided the land is then used to construct housing. This in turn prevents greenfield sites from being lost to development.
Roof space Not A Storey
According to the act, existing accommodation in the roof space, including a loft extension, is not considered as a storey for the purpose of this right. The right allows engineering operations necessary for the construction of the additional storeys.
Due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, legislation was introduced to streamline the application process for new construction. The thinking is that a streamlined approval process will see buildings constructed more quickly, which means that the new homes can be occupied more quickly.
The rights also provide greater planning certainty and this is achieved through what is known as a light touch prior approval process. The greater certainty provided to developers will incentivise them to proceed with buildings in the high street and new homes. The changes allow for the extension of existing homes and allow existing buildings to extend upwards to construct additional self-contained homes. They also allow existing purpose-built detached blocks of flats to extend upwards to create new self-contained homes.
The right does not require detailed consideration of the condition of the abandoned or unused building in respect of its redundancy, but the buildings must have been entirely vacant for at least six full months prior to the date of the application for prior approval. Furthermore, prior approval must be gained from the local planning authority.
Limits still apply under these rights. The new building can have a footprint of up to 1,000 sq m, and have a maximum height of 18 metres. Buildings cannot be demolished or replaced if their footprint is greater than 1,000 sq m. The right provides for the construction of a free-standing block of flats in the C3 use class. In place of the old building, a new free-standing block of flats can be constructed, provided it complies with the C3 class use. For example, if a small old building is demolished, a single C3 dwelling house may be built. More than one building may not be built withing the footprint under the right.
In order to add additional storeys to a dwelling, the rights is subject to a maximum height limit for the newly extended house of 18 meters, and where the house is in a terrace its height cannot me more than 3.5 meters higher than the next tallest house in the terrace. This will accommodate additional homes, within a final overall maximum height of 18 metres.
Heritage – Don’t Apply
Within the new rights, specific regulations apply to land which falls under the definition of heritage. The rights do not apply to land such as National Parks, Conservation Areas, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or World Heritage Sites. Furthermore, the new rights do not apply if the building is a listed building or scheduled monument, or if the land on which the building is sited is within the curtilage of a listed building or scheduled monument.
Approval will also not be given if an aerodrome, technical site or defence asset is identified on a safeguarding map provided to the local planning authority. An operator of a site, the Civil Aviation Authority or Secretary of State for Defence, can also recommend that the development does not proceed.
The local planning authority is required by article 7 of the General Permitted Development Order, to make a decision on an application for prior approval under the right within 8 weeks. The right does not provide a default deemed consent if the local planning authority fails to make a decision within that timeframe.
If a decision has not been made within 8 weeks there is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to determine the application for prior approval.
Within the new rights, compliance must still be adhered to. All development, whether granted permission following a planning application or through a national permitted development right, is legally required to comply with the Building Regulations 2010.
Permitted developments rights are designed to stimulate the construction industry and the broader economy in response to the financial impact of COVID-19. The rights accelerate the approval process and aim to see people living in new homes as soon as possible. Abandoned or unused buildings will be renovated or demolished and converted into homes, in order to increase housing density while protecting greenfield land. The new rights apply to most land, except land classified as defence, heritage or certain other usage, and they stipulate the scale of the new buildings. It is hoped the new streamlined approval process will incentivise developers to construct residential buildings which can provide housing to residents of England and Wales.