28th February 2019
Permitted Development – Onwards and Upwards?

In an attempt to solve the housing crisis and remove the perceived logjam in the planning process, the government has continued to widen the scope of Permitted Development Rights (PDRs).

For property owners who are looking to improve their existing house or carry out major works to a property they’re intending to buy, it pays to understand the scope of the available PDRs, as these regulations may mean that planning permission isn’t required.

PDRs are granted in the form of General Development Planning Orders, which apply separately to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In effect, they give implied planning consent to carry out certain classes of development.

PDRs don’t just apply to residential property. They can also be used to convert offices into residential units; in fact, over the last three years this type of conversion has provided 7% of the UK’s new homes. Recent government announcements show more change is on the way.

More homes needed

In 2016-17, PDRs provided nearly 18,900 new homes, 8.5% of the net additions delivered. Unsurprisingly, the government now intends to extend their scope so that even more homes can be provided in this way.

A government spokesman outlined the planned reforms as follows: “We propose new permitted development rights to extend certain existing buildings upwards to provide additional well-designed new homes to meet local housing need. National planning policy is clear that to support housing delivery we should make effective use of previously developed land and buildings, including the airspace above existing buildings, to create new homes.”

Homes England has already struck a three-year, £9m deal with developer Apex Airspace to build 78 homes on rooftops across London.

The ever-changing face of retail

It isn’t just offices that are being converted into homes – shops are too. The demise of the British high street is becoming increasingly noticeable as the e-commerce industry booms. Last year alone, PwC reported that 1,772 shops disappeared from Britain’s town centres, as record numbers of customers opted to do their shopping online – equating to almost five store closures each day. This means there are hundreds of thousands of square metres of empty space that could in theory be turned into homes.

The Royal Town Planning Institute is just one amongst several industry bodies that are concerned about the likely effect of the further extension of PDRs. It fears that it will hasten the decline of high streets by creating dead frontages, change the character of local areas and create substandard accommodation because planning checks won’t be applied in the usual way.

Local authorities are naturally concerned about the financial impact they will experience through the loss of affordable housing that they would expect to receive under the planning process. However, with the government determined to address the housing crisis by any means at its disposal, the way forward looks set to be onwards and upwards.

Getting the right advice

If you’re thinking of extending or developing a property, you need to adhere to strict guidelines to keep within the scope of permitted development – so it makes sense to check with your local authority before starting work. You will still have to follow Building Regulations for some aspects of the work, such as structural elements and electrical works.

If you’re thinking of selling the property in the future, then you might want to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Development from your local planning authority, confirming that any building work you’ve undertaken falls within the scope of permitted development. You can find a lot of useful information on planning matters on the government’s website,