Onwards and upwards with permitted development right reforms - Kuits Solicitors Manchester
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Onwards and upwards with permitted development right reforms

Onwards and upwards with permitted development right reforms

3rd August 2020 - Published by Kuits planning team

Putting into practice the Government’s intent to streamline the planning system further by providing developers with greater certainty about what they may build without applying for planning permission, the permitted development rules have been expanded once again.

Bookending the beginning and end of August are new rights to allow extra storeys of flats to be added to existing buildings.

How will the permitted development right reforms support the Government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ initiative?

However, although some developers may be keen to take advantage of this and build up where building out is not possible, the rights are curtailed by a series of conditions and exceptions. Finding an existing building that meets the various criteria may prove difficult.

Furthermore, somewhat slowing down the speed of the Prime Minister championing ‘Build, Build, Build’, there are extensive requirements for local planning authority approvals of key planning matters, which must be given before development can proceed.

As with previous office-to-residential permitted changes, there is no requirement for any of these new dwellings to be affordable dwellings. Unfortunately, unlike office-to-residential permitted changes, there appears to be no provision for deemed approvals with the new legislation (which have been useful to keep development moving where councils are slow to respond to applications).

Who will benefit from the new permitted development rights?

One further difference of note is that the new flats must have sufficient natural light in all habitable rooms, a requirement included to address some of the poor quality office-to-residential conversions. The Government’s increasing concern about flats without daylight has been highlighted in recent appeal decisions, where sunlight and daylight levels were inadequate. The use of these extra storeys is strict; they must only be used for residential C3 use and ancillary uses.

The permitted development right only applies to purpose built blocks of residential flats; if the residential use of the existing building came about through another permitted development right, then this new permitted development right will not apply. It is also not available to mixed-use buildings; for example, if a proportion of the building is office space or ground floor retail, the rights will not apply.

We are likely to see clients who own detached, low-rise residential blocks built specifically for use as flats, more commonly found in the suburbs than in large city centres, being able to use this new opportunity. It is unlikely to provide large swathes of new homes, nor address affordable housing needs.

Those wishing to use permitted development rights to extend their properties upwards should ensure that the rights do apply and that all permitted associated works fall within the scope of the new rules. Developers must also remember to check whether there are other restrictions that already apply to their properties that would preclude the use of these new rights, such as where existing permissions restrict permitted development rights or permitted development rights have been removed by Article 4 Directions.

How long will the new permitted development rights last?

Unlike previous permitted development changes brought in within the COVID-19 pandemic, the new rights are permanent rights, although these changes are unlikely to be the last we see to the permitted development regime.

Conditions, restrictions and required approvals for the new permitted development rights

We have summarised the main conditions, restrictions and approvals required below to provide a general overview of the changes, but there are multiple traps for the unwary and trusted legal advice should be taken before proceeding.

Adding extra storeys to existing blocks of flats

From 1 August 2020, developers and property owners will be able to add two additional storeys of new apartments or flats on top of existing, purpose-built blocks of flats.

What do the new rights apply to?

The new rights only apply to certain existing blocks of flats, which must be:

  • detached, purpose-built blocks of flats or apartment
  • built between 1948 and 2018
  • three storeys or more above ground level
  • not flats converted to residential use under existing permitted development rights

What restrictions are there?

Restrictions include:

  • the total new building height must be under 30 metres
  • any additional storey must not be over three metres in height
  • the overall increase must not be over seven metres
  • the additional storeys must be on the main part of the building
  • the building must not be in a conservation area or area of outstanding natural beauty or listed

Adding extra storeys to existing commercial buildings or single dwellinghouses

From 31 August 2020, developers and property owners will also be able to add flats to other types of existing buildings with the provisions brought in on 1 August. The additional flats may be up to two storeys, but there is an exception in which if the buildings are terraced or used as a single dwellinghouse only one extra storey is permitted.

What do the new rights apply to?

For commercial premises, the new rights only apply to:

Buildings which are either:-

  • detached buildings of over three storeys
  • terraced buildings

Used for eligible uses, which are those within:-

  • class A1, A2, A3 or B1(a) uses or a combination of those uses
  • use as betting offices, pay day loan shops or launderettes, or a combination of one or more of such uses with a residential use

For residential premises, the new rights apply to:

  • class C3 detached or terraced single dwellinghouses

What restrictions are there?

The rights do not apply to buildings:

  • which are listed buildings (and land within their curtilages)
  • within conservation areas or areas of outstanding natural beauty
  • not used for an Eligible Use or C3 residential use on 5 March 2018
  • not constructed between 1948 and March 2018

The new storeys must:

  • be constructed on the main part of the existing building
  • have an internal height not exceeding the height of any existing storeys (or over three metres)

Additional restrictions are extensive and different restrictions on scale and appearance apply to different buildings, which should be checked before using the rights.

What will the local planning authority need to approve?

Prior approval requirements differ depending on the building’s use and whether it is detached or terraced, but include:

  • external appearance
  • sufficient natural light in habitable rooms
  • amenity of neighbouring properties such as overlooking and loss of light
  • impacts on transport / highways /air space
  • impact of noise from commercial premises
  • impact of residential use on existing businesses

Work must not commence without prior approval and, if approved, must be completed within three years.

Speak to a specialist planning lawyer in Manchester about the new permitted development right reforms

For more advise on anything mentioned above, please contacts Kuits’ specialist planning lawyer Victoria Leam on 0161 503 2998 or email victorialeam@kuits.com

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