Government announces further overhaul of Permitted Development Rights
Date of Article
Apr 06 2021
Planning & development

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Colin Brown
Partner, Head of Planning & Development
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Steven Sensecall
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Emma Winter
Partner, Planning & Development
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Laura is an Associate Partner with over 8 years post-qualification experience. She joined Carter Jonas in July 2021 and prior to this gained experience in both the public and private sector. Laura specialises in large-scale residential applications and site promotions, including new settlements and Green Belt release for national and local house builders, private developers and promoters and landowners. She is also highly experienced in acting for clients on industrial, commercial and retail projects, including brownfield redevelopment, stakeholder engagement and town centre uses.She provides clients with planning strategies, prepares and project manages complex planning applications, leads on Appeals and prepares representations and attends hearings in respect of site promotion.
Nick is a chartered town planner and development surveyor with over 25 years' experience, gained across the residential, commercial, retail and industrial sectors for corporate, institutional and private landowners and developers. He has worked at CBRE and Drivers Jonas Deloitte. His professional experience is in three main sectors – Strategic Land / Projects, Retail / Mixed-Use and Central London. Strategic Projects / Land involves the promotion of land for commercial and residential development for landowners and developers. Retail / Mixed-Use schemes are a blend of edge of centre and town centre mixed-use schemes with food stores and other uses, often residential. This sector includes regeneration and waterside schemes. Central London focuses on projects from Canary Wharf to Hammersmith and Camden down to Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth. When he isn’t working, Nick can be found playing golf (increasingly badly) and spending time re-stocking and emptying his wine cellar to indulge his passion for wine.
Emma joined Carter Jonas in 2010 providing advice to clients on all aspects of town and country planning including the development potential of land and property in urban and rural areas. Emma has also been involved in the preparation and submission of various representation to facilitate the promotion of land through the Local Development Framework process.

From 1 August, new Permitted Development (PD) Rights will allow unused commercial buildings to be converted into homes, amongst other confirmed changes to PD rights for public buildings and ports.

Through a Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government press release on 31 March 2021, the Government confirmed a series of new freedoms to support high streets as they navigate their way out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Class E to residential PD right will apply subject to the following criteria:

  • Vacancy requirement: the building will need to have been vacant for three months prior to the date of application;
  • Size restriction: no more than 1,500 square metres of floorspace will be able to change use under the PD right; and
  • Long use restriction: the building must have been in Class E (commercial, business and service) use for two years before benefiting from the right;

The legislation will bring forward this right from 1 August 2021 and will allow applicants to apply for a prior approval rather than a full planning application. The Local Planning Authority will consider the following aspects, providing the application also meets the criteria set out above:

  • Flooding
  • Impacts of noise from commercial premises
  • Provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms
  • In conservation areas only - consideration of the impact of the loss of the ground floor commercial, business and service use
  • Impact of the loss of health centres and registered nurseries on the provision of such local services

We welcome the fact that the PD rights have taken into consideration some of the main issues which arose out of the consultation earlier this year. The ability to change the use of vacant commercial units will be a benefit to high streets across England which were already struggling in the pre-pandemic world.

The criteria for the right to create any residential developments will seek to ensure a suitable living environment is provided. Buildings which are converted will need to comply with space standards which were introduced to the GDPO last year and which have now come into effect (6 April 2021)

We will be interested to see how the long use restriction is applied to individual uses which now fall under Class E (which has only existed since September 2020) and where lawful implementation of a use has been stifled by lockdown rules preventing opening of businesses.

The press release has confirmed that where existing Article 4 directions are in place in respect of the change of use from offices to residential (under Class O) it will continue to have effect on equivalent development. It will be interesting to see whether Local Planning Authorities react to this by exploring new Article 4 opportunities to protect their high streets, or whether the criteria is indeed sufficient to capture and protect the essence of the high street without being lost to residential development.

Compatibility with adjoining uses will be an interesting one to watch. Whilst noise is a consideration as part of the prior approval application, impact on residents by way of odour has not been included. This would mean (providing the other criteria is met), a unit adjacent to a hot food takeaway (Sui Generis) could arguably be converted to a residential dwelling. This raises a question on whether planning applications for hot food takeaways elsewhere will be subject to less scrutiny by means of impact on amenity given the fall-back position of these new PD rights.

Notwithstanding the announcement of the new PD rights, we find it somewhat perplexing that the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee launched an inquiry into the approach to permitted development rights eight days before the Government announced these new PD changes (with submissions open until 30 April 2021). Will the outcome of this inquiry result in amendments to the PD rights published today or will this act as a future roadmap? Given that these rights will come into play from 1 August there won’t be much scope for making changes as a result of the ongoing inquiry.

Greater freedom has also been given to public service infrastructure and ports through amended permitted development rights. The full press release is available to view here.

For more information on the PD right changes, or to find out how this may affect your assets, please contact us.