Concerns that permitted development rules are producing ‘poor quality’ residential homes

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Planning Law on Thursday, May 17th, 2018

In recent days, fresh concerns have been raised that permitted development rules are having a negative effect on Britain’s housing market by encouraging too many ‘poor quality’ office-to-residential conversions which are not properly overseen by planners.

Under the rules governing permitted development rights in the UK, developers can convert commercial office space into residential units without having to go through the traditional planning process.

However, since permitted development rights were first introduced, concerns have been mounting that while permitted development offers greater flexibility, by-passing the traditional planning process has a number of negative impacts on both the standard of homes produced and the fact that permitted developments do not require developers to make contributions to local infrastructure.

Most recently, research highlighted by planningportal.co.uk has indicated that permitted development produces a greater number of poor quality homes than applications that go through the traditional planning process in full.

These findings were reached after researchers evaluated data from local authorities which have seen a high level of permitted development schemes – such as Croydon, Camden and Leeds – and compared figures with statistics from Glasgow, where any conversions require full planning permission.

The study revealed a number or extremely high quality housing conversions in many of the areas assessed, however, it also noted that there were several instances where permitted developments suffered from the following issues:

  • Low quality designs.
  • Inappropriate locations for residential amenities.
  • Lack of amenity space.

Overall, it found that Scottish conversion schemes which had passed through the full planning process tended to be of a much higher quality and have better space standards.

Abdul Choudhury, policy manager at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which commissioned the research alongside University College London and the University of Sheffield, said that the Government needed to do more to “balance the competing priorities of housing, infrastructure and need for commercial spaces”,

“In some areas, over-conversion has produced a shortage of office units which has pushed up their costs. Central Government policies can dilute local planning authority powers, which seems contradictory to the localism agenda the Government has championed in the past”, he said.

The RICS’ full report can be downloaded as a PDF here.

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