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Government confirms relaxed Permitted Development rules with no neighbour complaints via upwards extensions


Jenrick confirms relaxed rules to boost housing provision via upwards extensions and office demolitions

30 September 2019 by John Geoghegan and Colin Marrs

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick today announced that the government will push ahead with controversial plans to ease planning rules to allow upwards extensions of properties and the demolition of commercial buildings to make way for new homes.


Allowing upward extension via permitted development rights has been under consideration for some years.  The Government is proposing to expand permitted development rights to allow two-storey upward extensions to purpose built blocks of flats from January 2020, with the intention of applying the right to detached houses in the future to allow growing families to expand their homes without having to move.

The expansion of permitted development under recent coalition and Conservative governments, which has allowed developers to convert business premises into homes without planning permission.


Critics raise concerns that the proposed change would remove the ability of neighbours to object to poor development that may impinge on their amenity - which contradicts the Government’s own attempt to improve design quality and public engagement in the planning process.    

Labour has pledged to scrap the newly introduced permitted development rights, given increasing concern over the re-use of office and industrial buildings as homes

A planning application with Cornwall Council could see a B&M store converted into homes using Permitted Development Rights.


The problems with permitted development 

As PDR schemes do not need to obtain planning permission, they do not need to comply with local planning policy and local authorities cannot enter into section 106 agreements with developers of these schemes. Neither can local authorities determine whether the scheme is of an acceptable quality to go ahead, or whether it is safe.  Instead, local authorities can only consider an extremely limited set of issues – such as flood risk and the impact of the scheme on highways – when deciding whether to give approval.  The consequences are now plain to see.

What are permitted development rights? 

PDR provide an automatic, national grant of planning permission for certain classes of development. Schemes with PDR can therefore bypass the standard full, local planning process.  These are not a new feature of our planning system. Very small scale projects, such as some types of home extensions, have long been allowed under PDR.  However, over the last several years, government has introduced legislation that changed the game in terms of the types of development that have PDR. Since 2013, it has been possible to convert certain commercial buildings – most infamously including office blocks – into residential buildings using PDR. And since 2014, PDR has also covered the conversion of agricultural buildings into residential properties.


A study by the RICS last year found that the extension of permitted development rights had resulted in a £50m loss to local authorities in terms of planning contributions and affordable housing, and resulted in smaller, lower-quality homes, with a third not meeting national space standards.

The study said: “Comparison with residential units that were permitted under the full planning process showed permitted development residential quality was significantly worse.”  This summer Watford council lost an appeal against the conversion of an industrial building under permitted development in which a number of flats had no windows, with the appeal inspector ruling he had no powers to prevent it under the system.

Announcement Families able to add two storeys to home WITHOUT planning permission | Robert Jenrick on Twitter
Minister pledges radical change to planning laws to allow extensions