Permitted development law – a help or a hindrance?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Planning Law on Friday, January 19th, 2018

In 2013, a landmark legislative change known as ‘permitted development’ was introduced, enabling property developers to convert commercial buildings into residential flats without having to go through the traditional planning process.

The new rules were initially introduced in a bid to combat the UK’s housing crisis. But in recent days, the Local Government Association (LGA) has criticised permitted development law, amid concerns that the scheme may not be living up to expectations.

Local authorities claim that the scheme is backfiring. Specifically, the LGA says that developers are “ducking their responsibilities to provide affordable housing and infrastructure” by side-stepping the traditional planning process.

However, the group’s own data appears to contradict this very argument, suggesting that the scheme has been incredibly productive in recent years.

In fact, the LGA’s data suggests that in many regions, more than half of all new homes have been developed under the permitted development scheme.

Martin Tett, of the LGA, admitted that “the conversion of offices into flats” had proved somewhat successful in delivering many of the nation’s “much-needed homes.”

However, the LGA said that the scheme was problematic in that it was encouraging some developers to avoid making contributions to schools, roads and other amenities.

This is because permitted development legislation enables developers to convert properties without having to go through the traditional planning process, through which councils will usually insist on developers making contributions to such amenities as part of their plans.

Mr Tett said it was “essential” that councils had some oversight of developments in any one area, in order to ensure that such developments were “prosperous” and “good quality.”

The group also raised concerns that in the near future, office spaces could dry up if developers began favouring permitted developments over new developments.

In response, however, a Government spokesperson indicated that “a mix of dwelling types” will always be needed in most communities, in order to sufficiently “meet different housing needs.”

“We are determined to build the homes our country needs and permitted development rights play an important role in helping us deliver more properties,” they said.

The Government stressed that in instances where permitted development law was proving to be problematic, councils had the power to remove permitted development rights if they so wish.

Up-to-date figures suggest that in the year to March 2017, approximately 17,500 new properties were created under the scheme.

For more information please contact our Head of Planning Associate, Salvatore Amico.


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