Changes to permitted development rights and what this means in practice for neighbourhood planning

Posted on 26 July 2017 (Permalink)

What are Permitted Development Rights?

Most building works, engineering works and changes of use are defined as ‘development’ in the Planning Acts. To avoid planning applications having to be made for all such works and changes of use, secondary legislation (The General Permitted Development Order) defines various works and changes of use as ‘permitted development’.

Permitted Development Rights have always been wide-ranging, including:

· extensions to dwellings, schools and industrial premises within specified size limits;

· new farm buildings within certain parameters;

· various operational works within local authority, Crown, railway and dock lands;

· changes of use within and between certain classes of use.

Within designated areas, including National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites, the Norfolk / Suffolk Broads and Conservation Areas, permitted development rights are generally more restricted.

In certain circumstances Local Authorities can withdraw permitted development rights in a part of their area by making an ‘Article 4 Direction'. It is a lenghy process, involving a 12-month consultation period which might result in landowners claiming compensation.  The Secretary of State has to be notified and has powers to cancel such directions.

What Changes have there been to Permitted Development Rights?

Over recent years Governments have sought to ‘simplify’ the planning system, encourage economic activity and increase the delivery of housing. One result of these agendas has been a series of changes to permitted development rights. These changes include more relaxed size limits for extensions to various buildings. There have also been a number of new categories of permitted development introduced. Some of the more notable include permitted development rights to change the use of:

· office, warehouse, retail and agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses;

· agricultural buildings to flexible commercial uses; and

· agricultural, office and hotel buildings to state-funded schools and nurseries.

There are various restrictions relating to these rights (eg not applying to listed buildings and size limits) and they are subject to ‘prior notification’. This is essentially a short cut planning application procedure whereby various details of the development are to be considered by the local authority, eg contamination and flooding risks, transport and highway impacts. However, the principle of the development is not a matter for consideration.

Further permitted development rights were introduced earlier this year. They include:

· changes of use between pubs / bars and restaurants / cafes;

· changes of use of laundrettes to dwellinghouses;

· drilling boreholes for groundwater and seismic monitoring, preparatory to potential petroleum exploration.

Again, various restrictions apply to these rights.

Conversely, some permitted development rights have been removed, including those previously allowing the change of use of a pub / bar to a shop and other commercial uses.

Further changes are possible - the 2017 Conservative Party Manifesto referred to treating shale applications and non-fracking drilling as permitted development.

What are the Implications for Neighbourhood Planning?

In drafting policies for a Neighbourhood Plan it is important to be aware of what permitted development rights are available. To introduce policies to restrict changes of use that are permitted development would have no effect as they would not override those statutory rights. An alternative approach would need to be adopted if certain changes of use (eg business uses to dwellings) would undermine the vision for a neighbourhood planning area. That approach may be to gather evidence to justify to the local authority the making of an Article 4 to restrict the permitted development rights.

Conversely, a neighbourhood planning group may wish to encourage certain changes of use or other developments that are not permitted development. That may be the subject of policies or an approach to a local authority to make a Local Development Order to introduce additional permitted development rights.

Some of the recently introduced permitted development rights for changes of use do not apply to buildings which have been listed as a ‘Community Asset’. Thus, it is important for neighbourhood planning groups to consider which buildings within their area may be classed as community assets and seek their listing as such.

It should be noted that the above applies to England. The planning regulations differ in the rest of the UK.

Mike Gee (MRTPI), Mike Gee Town Planning Services Ltd