Permitted Development Rights Reform

The Government has laid before Parliament a significant number of further reforms to the planning system, which will come into force on 30 May 2013.  These reforms follow on swiftly from the extensive changes proposed in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013 (and were summarised in a previous article).

The further reforms involve a number of changes to the permitted development rights regime which permits certain development without the need to obtain planning permission.  These reforms include:

1.   The ability to change the use of offices (within Use Class B1(a)) to homes (within Use Class C3).  The permitted development right will be available for a period of 3 years, although there are certain areas (such as Manchester City Centre) and building types (such as listed buildings) that are excluded. 

Prior to beginning the development the developer must also apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to transport and highway impacts as well as contamination and flood risk, and this prior approval will it seems involve the payment of a fee and the submission of such further information as reasonably required by the local planning authority to assess the risk.

2.   For a 3 year period, the ability to extend a detached dwelling by up to 8 metres and any other residential dwelling by up to 6 metres.  As introduced in the Growth and Infrastructure Act, prior to commencing development the local planning authority must be contacted and approval sought following neighbour consultation.  The local planning authority must then assess the impact of the extension on the amenity of any adjoining premises.  A fee does not appear to be proposed under the legislation, which accordingly suggests that the local planning authority will have no choice but to deal with such notifications free of charge.

3.   The existing right to change the use of a building from use classes B1 (Business) or B2 (General Industry) to B8 (Storage or Distribution), or B2/B8 to B1 usage is expanded to permit such a change where the floor space is up to 500 square metres (as opposed to 235 square metres that currently exists).

4.   Existing agricultural buildings will be permitted to change to a variety of different uses including shops, restaurants, offices and hotels provided that the building has not been solely in agricultural use since 3 July 2012, or for a period of 10 years (if the use began later than that date).  No more than 500 square metres of floor space in the building can be so converted without the need to seek planning permission.  The local planning authority will still need to be notified of the development and should the floor space be greater than 150 square metres then a formal approval will be required using the same procedures as noted above with the change of use of the office space to residential.

5.   New retail ventures, financial and professional services, restaurants, cafes and businesses will be able to open for up to 2 years in buildings designated as shops, financial services, restaurants, pubs, hot food takeaways, business, non-residential institutions, leisure and assembly.  The change of use may only relate to a floor space of no more than 150 square metres and the site must revert back to its lawful use at the end of the 2 year period.  The local planning authority will need to be notified of any such change.

6.  The ability to erect, extend or alter industrial and warehouse premises is increased to 50% of gross floor space or 200 square metres (from 25% or 100 square metres).  The new permitted development right is temporary and will expire on 30 May 2016.

7.  The ability to erect, extend or alter an office building, shop, catering, professional or financial services is increased to 50% of gross floor space or 100 square metres (from 25% or 50 square metres).  The new permitted development right is temporary and will expire on 30 May 2016.

In each case the developer will need to inform the local planning authority of the development, generally before the development actually starts, which may still involve the submission of documentation that is no different to what would be submitted under a formal planning application.  Equally, developers must be mindful of the numerous conditions and exceptions imposed in the legislation when relying on permitted development rights. 

However, clearly, the Government is attempting to stimulate further development and expansion, particularly within the commercial sector, in order to assist landowners and businesses, although whether the reforms do ease the administrative burden on developers is open to debate given that the local planning authority still needs to be contacted in most cases and approval obtained.

Posted on: 30/05/2013

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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