Permitted Development is changing

Permitted Development is changing and it creates new opportunities for developers. What are the changes?

Since the 31st of August 2020 it has become possible for 'owners of vacant and redundant freestanding buildings of a footprint of up to 1000 square metres will be able to fast-track the planning process for demolishing and rebuilding them as new residential developments within the footprint of the original building, up to a maximum height of 18 metres, including up to 2 storeys higher than the former building.'

This is a significant change in the regulations that could unlock significant value on existing brownfield land. The new development could be a block of flats or a single new family home. It will apply to vacant purpose-built blocks of flats, offices, research and development and light industrial buildings. It applies to buildings built before 1990 that have been vacant for at least 6 months. There are exemptions for conservation areas, in National Parks, in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest, listed buildings and World Heritage Sites.

Before we all get too excited....There are still hoops that must be jumped through and the standard of design required to succeed has been significantly increased.

The reform gives permission to demolish and rebuild vacant buildings. That permission is subject to the existing fast-track approval process known as “prior approval”, where the local planning authority must consider specified matters first and they must notify local residents and groups can comment, and then the local council will consider representations made on those specified matters for prior approval. This is not like the old system and will add significantly to the complexity.

The key issues to be considered are:

  • Adequate provision of natural light in habitable rooms, highways matters, risk of flooding, the design and external appearance of the new buildings, and the impact on neighbouring buildings in respect of privacy and light – and landscaping.
  • Methods of demolition plus any heritage issues – for instance a need for an archaeological assessment in sites of historical interest.
  • The council can approve the plans, reject them on the grounds above or could ask for further information.
  • The development will be subject to building regulations, including in respect of fire safety.
  • As of 30th September 2020 the new dwellings will also have to comply with Nationally Described Space Standards.

For new dwellings created, the local authority can charge an application fee of £334 for each new dwelling created up to a maximum of 50 units, and a fixed fee of £16,525 plus £100 for each new dwelling in excess of this.

Although this is Permitted Development the new rules and checks mean it is only very slightly less complicated than a standard planning application. The benefit is that the principle of additional height is agreed and there are no affordable housing contributions. It is therefore a significantly cheaper way forward for many land owners. Although an extra two floors can be a lot it may also be that a proper design process could in fact achieve more development values on the site. Either way land owners and developers will need an architect who knows what they are doing to help them make the judgement and maximise their sites development potential.

We have specialised in Permitted Development and have extensive experience in the sector. Please give us a call if you wish to discuss your project.