As I posted about last week, the Government is about to announce their proposals for significant deregulation of the planning system. It is worth considering some of the complexities, and questions which, as of writing, are still open to interpretation and further guidance.

What do the changes include?

These changes will make use of amendment of the Use Classes Order and the General Permitted Development Order. According to Robert Jenrick (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) in his letter to MPs this will include:

  1. A new “broad category of ‘commercial, business and service’ uses which will allow commercial, retail and leisure uses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances”
  2. A new permitted development right (PDR) to “encourage regeneration and put empty buildings back to good use. This will serve to bring forward additional much needed homes and boost investment opportunities for the construction industry”, and will also allow certain free-standing vacant and redundant commercial and residential buildings to be demolished and rebuilt as residential use within the footprint of the existing building (this right does not, of course, apply to areas such as national parks, conservation areas or listed buildings)
  3. A new “building upwards” permitted development right – in effect, planning permission for self-contained flats to be constructed on top of certain existing, purpose-built blocks of flats, with certain caveats

The third is the most radical of these measures, and the new rights will be complex to navigate. One of my favourite Town Planning blogs, Simoncity, posted a flow chart to describe how the new “building upwards” right will work when it comes into law on 1 August 2020. Hint: it is not straight-forward!

What are the key open questions?

There are inevitably a number of uncertainties as to various aspects of the “building upwards” right, and aspects which we need to both consider and to push for further government direction on are below. The first three quote Clive Betts (chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee), in his 8 July 2020 letter to MHCLG Minister of State on this matter:

  1. “What will the Government do to ensure that basic standards, including minimum room sizes and guarantees of amenity space, will apply to new PDRs.” (some previous PDRs have been criticised for delivering very low-quality homes)
  2. Whether the proposed developments might be liable for s106 contributions (unlikely). previous research from Shelter calculated that between 2015 and 2018, society lost out on over 10,000 potential affordable homes as a result of PDR, and Betts questioned what the government will do to “ensure that local authorities do not, as a consequence of new PDRs, miss out on the funding they need to provide vital infrastructure and affordable housing for their communities?”
  3. “What research has the Government undertaken into the potential impact on leaseholders of these changes and what protections will the Government put in place to ensure that they are not financially disadvantaged as a consequence?”
  4. How will we determine adequate natural light?

The assessment has estimated that the “building upwards” right could lead to approximately 81,000 homes being built above existing structures.

Lichfield’s planning blog explores this right-to-rise in more depth. I’ve been delighted to have several meetings with their well informed Planning and Neighbourly Matters teams over over the past weeks, exploring how we can work together in this changing landscape.

Image is from our landmark Rhiw development for Coastal Housing Group. More information can be found here:

Contact Abigail Blumzon, Client Project Delivery Advisor on 0345 045 0050 or to discuss how we can help you bring your development plans to life.