Proposed Changes to Permitted Development Rights and Use Classes by Andrew Bateson, Planning Partner West Waddy

Previous recent legislative amendments have facilitated residential conversion of redundant office buildings.  However, whilst that has seen an efficient re-use of many vacant buildings and the creation of large number of new and urgently needed residential units, in far too many cases the resultant conversions have been criticised for the creation of modern slums unfit for purpose.  News headlines have highlighted buildings that were inherently unsuitable for conversion but were nevertheless within the scope of expanded permitted development rights and which have been converted with sub-standard sized accommodation, with insufficient natural light, poor security and inaccessibility to amenities and services.

In light of such criticism but with a continued urgent need for more homes, the Government has examined how further amendments to permitted development rights (PDR) and development use classes could be introduced.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2020 was published on 21 July 2020 – It covers the “knock down and rebuild” permitted development rights (PDR).  The legislation will come into force on 31 August 2020.

This new Order allows demolition of certain business uses – Class B1 (a, b & c) and residential buildings (but not retail, other employment uses or any other uses) that were built on or before 31 December 1989 and their replacement with a new residential block or house.

These new permitted demolition and residential rebuilding rights have certain provisos:

  • 13 prior approval matters: usual ones for the office/residential PDR conversions plus light, landscaping, external appearance, impact on amenity and demolition details;
  • Maximum footprint of existing building = 1,000m2;
  • Maximum height of existing building = 18m;
  • Maximum height of replacement building = 18m, but cannot be more than 2 storeys higher than the original building being replaced;
  • Must have been vacant for at least six months; and
  • PDR will not apply in Conservation Areas or other Article 2/3 land.

Other headlines:

Use Classes A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurants and cafes), and B1 (business – a, b and c), will be reclassified within a single Use Class E (commercial, business and service).

Further new Use Classes added: F1 (learning and non-residential institutions) and F2 (local community) are introduced, which subsume some of the previous use classes – D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure).

Residential permitted development rights will be extended to enable up to 2-storey height increases in dwellings, provided a maximum height of 18m is not exceeded and the dwellings are not local in a conservation area or other Article 2/3 land; so bungalows could potentially have two extra floors added and houses have one extra floor added without the need for formal planning permission.

The changes are possibly not as ‘far reaching’ as we had been led to believe beforehand (i.e. not including extended PDR across retail / other employment uses / other uses), and clearly quite a lot of information will be required across the 13 documents necessary to justify such redevelopments, but there may well be instances where it can apply, or at least politically send a message of ‘we could do this without planning permission’.  By allowing such redevelopments, it should encourage developers and investors to create new purpose built residential homes that are more likely to be designed to acceptable standards – time will tell!