Permitted development rights – Taking the temperature
Source: Carter Jonas Research
Inner and Outer London boroughs defined according to statutory definition.
Carter Jonas has conducted a survey of 80 local planning authorities (LPAs) comprising the largest English cities and towns and all 33 London boroughs to ascertain their attitudes and responses to the move that permitted development rights (PDR), allowing a change of use from offices to residential, have been made permanent. The rights, first introduced on a temporary basis in May 2013, allow for a change of use from offices to residential using the “prior approval” process.
Nationally, almost 40% of the authorities questioned said that prior approval to change from offices to residential is a problem in their administrative area. In London as a whole, the number of authorities identifying this as a problem increased to just over 50%. In Inner London, the number of boroughs saying this is a problem increased to almost 70%.
This negative response contrasts strongly with the view of the Government that this initiative will “tap into the potential of underused buildings”.
What lies behind the concern of these LPAs and what are they doing about it?
When PDR were first introduced, 17 LPAs managed to obtain an exemption from the Government for specific areas – usually key employment areas or town centres in order to control the loss of employment space. Only six of these were outside London. A significant number of others tried but failed to obtain an exemption.
Since the government announced that PDR were being made permanent, our survey has revealed that an increasing number of LPAs are looking at introducing Article 4 Directions to remove the Rights and “ensure proper planning” of certain areas.
Outside of London, only four LPAs questioned have an exemption or Article 4 with one looking to introduce such a restriction. Two LPAs have applied only to be rejected by the Government.
In London, our research showed that around half of all boroughs have an exemption or Article 4 in place, the majority in Inner London. In addition to these, Ealing, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham and Hounslow are all in the process of introducing an Article 4. Brent, Harrow and Wandsworth are considering introducing one and Richmond is looking to extend its current Article 4 boundary to include a larger area.
Only one or two boroughs came out in support of PDR, although these were locations where there is an acute shortage of housing.
Croydon in particular has seen a significant amount of office space converted to residential and the Council has invoked an Article 4 to protect its core metropolitan centre.
Nick Taylor, Carter Jonas’ Head of Planning said, “Article 4 Directions have historically been reserved for maintaining control over changes in Conservation Areas and they are commonplace in historic towns. We are now seeing authorities using Article 4 Directions in more urban areas as a tool to move away from prior approvals and return to traditional planning applications with the greater degree of scrutiny that an assessment against planning policy allows. While this seems to go against Government advice to not unnecessarily hold on to employment land, it does afford LPAs with a greater degree of control over monitoring the supply of employment land in specific areas versus the provision of private and affordable housing.”