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Planning consultation: more changes to permitted development rights proposed

30 September 2014

In July of this year, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) launched a wide-ranging technical consultation on planning.

The consultation proposes a controversial expansion of the office to residential permitted development rights and the introduction of a permitted change of use from light industrial and storage and distribution to residential.

Other permitted development rights are proposed to benefit the High Street and allow more minor changes without the burden of a planning application.

Office to residential

The consultation proposes making the current temporary right to change use from offices to residential, a permanent right from May 2016 (the date the temporary right is due to expire).

Areas that were exempt from the temporary right (such as the Central Activities Zone in London) would lose their exemption.

Instead, it is proposed that the prior approval process will be widened so that Councils can consider the potential loss of strategically important office accommodation when deciding whether or not to give prior approval. 

Light Industrial/storage & distribution to residential

The government proposes to help increase housing supply by extending permitted development rights to allow light industrial (Class B1(c)) and storage and distribution buildings (Class B8) to change to residential use.

As with the existing office to residential change of use, this is proposed to be subject to the authority's prior approval in relation to flooding, transport and contamination, but additionally in relation to noise. 

The consultation asks whether the right should be subject to a floorspace limit and whether it should be extended to national parks, conservation areas and/or areas of outstanding natural beauty. 

High street uses to residential

It is also proposed that certain sui generis uses on the high street (laundrettes, amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs) should be permitted to change to residential. Again, any change of use would be subject to the authority's prior approval relating to flooding, transport and contamination (but not noise). 

More flexibility on the high street

The consultation proposes removing financial services (ie banks and building societies), professional services, estate agents and employment agencies out of Class A2 and into Class A1. This will allow more changes of use to take place without the need for planning permission (changes within Class A1 do not require permission). 

Under the proposals, betting shops and payday lenders will remain within Class A2 and the ability to change to such Class A2 uses without planning permission will be limited.

Other proposals

The consultation contains the following proposed changes:

  • Extensions for homeowners - making the existing temporary rights to build larger extensions permanent.
  • Permitted change of use to Class A3 restaurants and cafés (of up to 150 sq. m.) - benefitting Class A1 and A2 uses, plus laundrettes, amusement arcades/centres, casinos and nightclubs. This is subject to prior approval by way of neighbour notification, so that if objections are received relating to noise, odours, traffic and opening hours, such issues will then become subject to the Council's prior approval. 
  • Permitted change of use to Class D2 assembly and leisure - benefitting Class A1 and A2 uses plus laundrettes, amusement arcades/centres and nightclubs.
  • Improvements to retail premises - allowing ancillary buildings to be built within the boundaries of a Class A1 shop (including within the car park), increasing the threshold for building internal mezzanine floors and allowing loading bay capacity to be increased without the need for a planning application. 
  • Extensions to business premises - making permanent the temporary permitted development rights previously introduced allowing (subject to conditions) extensions of up to 100 sq. m. for offices, shops, and financial services. 
  • Commercial filming - allowing filming and associated physical development to take place (subject to conditions, including that there are no physical alterations to the building and that land and buildings are reinstated) subject to prior approval relating to transport, a travel plan, noise and light. 
  • Solar panels on commercial premises - allowing solar panels to be put up on commercial premises without the need for a planning application (subject to prior approval relating to siting and design.

Article 4 Directions

Local planning authorities can remove permitted development rights by making an Article 4 Direction. The consultation proposes that Article 4 Directions should not remove the right to develop where prior approval has been given but the development has not yet commenced. 

The government is also seeking views on whether the permitted development rights set out in the consultation should be subject to compensation in the event they are removed by a Direction. 

Final Thoughts

Further widening of permitted development rights (particularly the removal of the exempted areas for office to residential change of use) is controversial with local planning authorities, as it undermines their ability to control development and retain employment and runs counter to the principle of localism much trumpeted by the government.

The government's commitment to pushing through the change will be tested, particularly in light of next year's elections.

The changes also further blur the boundary between permitted development and planning application. In particular, the introduction of strategic planning considerations into the prior approval process brings issues of policy into permitted development.

We also see no planning reason why only immediate neighbours should have the right to express concern on the impact on amenity of new restaurants and cafes in their communities. 

This article was written by Claire Fallows.

For more information please contact Claire on +44 (0)20 7427 1046 or claire.fallows@crsblaw.com