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Planning getting simpler ?


The government has launched a consultation exercise on suggested amendments to the planning system (England only) to secure more housing and strengthen the high street.

Vertical extensions into airspace may be able to benefit from permitted development rights

These are only proposals at the moment, and may not be turned into legislation, but it shows how the government is thinking and would be worth bearing in mind for up-coming projects. There are two broad areas: physical building works and changes of use.


Physical building works


· Building new homes in airspace extensions (additional floors) to be permitted development (PD) in certain situations (such as residential or commercial buildings in town centres); it would exclude buildings in, for example, conservations areas and other heritage or environmentally protected areas. The potential heights will be limited by local context, probably up to a max of 5 storeys from ground (though purpose-built flats could go higher). Prior approval would be needed.


· There is already a time-limited PD right for larger extensions to homes – single-storey rear extension of up to 8m in length for detached houses, and up to 6m for semi-detached and terrace houses – due to finish in May 2019. This is proposed to become permanent (subject to prior approval from the Council).


· And … PD to demolish a commercial building and re-build as residential. So we won’t have to rely on keeping a building and changing its use, but will have the potential to achieve greater density through efficient design. CIL and affordable housing may still be required. It will be intriguing to see how this plays out.


Change of Use


· Change of use from hot-food take-aways (A5) to residential (C3) to be PD (A1 retail and A2 financial services can already do this).


· The retail use classes (A1-A5) may be consolidated to one class so that, for example, a shop could become an estate agency or a restaurant without needing planning permission.


· The change of use from storage and distribution to residential (up to 500 sq m) has been a temporary PD right that was due to expire next June. This is proposed to be a permanent PD right, and will continue to be subject to the prior approval.


· Another permitted development from retail to offices to be a permanent feature (currently only temporary)


There’s great potential for us here, but lots of detail still needed to be thrashed out, particularly regarding the extensions into airspace and the demolition of commercial for resi!


Prior approval will be needed to achieve these PD rights, so Councils will continue to have powers to control development. But the starting point will be an ‘in principle’ positive.


As I said at the top, none of this is in force at the moment, and inevitably will be subject to amendment before it gets ratified. Some of these measures will be controversial amongst certain parts of the community, so we will have to wait to see what gets through and what is binned.


The consultation goes through to the 14th January, so I would expect the changes to come into force in the summer of 2019.