New rights to build homes without planning permission

8th October 2020

Our planning expert, Amanda Beresford, looks at the new rights to build homes without planning permission. She considers the benefits and difficulties of the new rules for businesses.

Recent laws have created new permitted development rights (‘PDRs’) that allow dwellings to be built on top of some commercial and residential buildings and also to demolish some buildings and replace them with residential development, all without planning permission. I consider the benefits and difficulties of the new rules.

The new PDRs for existing commercial buildings are:

  • Part 20 class AA – the construction of up to two additional storeys of new homes on top of detached buildings in commercial or mixed use.
  • Part 20 class AB – the construction of up to two additional storeys of new homes on top of terraced buildings, including semi-detached buildings, in commercial or mixed use.

The new PDR’s for existing residential buildings are:

  • Part 20 class A – the construction of new dwellings on top of a purpose-built blocks of flats.
  • Part 20 class AC – the construction of new dwellings on top of terraced and semi-detached dwelling houses.
  • Part 20 class AD – the construction of new flats on top of a detached dwelling houses.

The new PDR for demolishing a building and constructing a new one is:

  • Part 20 class ZA – the demolition of a single detached vacant building that was used for office, research and development or industrial processes, or a free-standing purpose-built block of flats, and its replacement by an individual detached block of flats or a single detached dwelling house within the footprint of the old building

There is also a new PDR which allows a dwelling to be enlarged:

  • Part 1 class AA – upward extension of a house ( detached , semi detached or terraced) to provide additional living space for the house.

These new PDRs could be advantageous for business with cost and time savings and potential added value benefits. However, they are not straightforward. The regulations contain long lists of limitations, conditions and exclusions. For example, most do not apply in protected areas and some are subject to size and height restrictions and only apply to buildings of a certain age. A thorough understanding of the details of the legislation and how it operates will therefore be essential for any business looking to implement the new rights.

The new rights are also subject to obtaining ‘prior approval’ from the local planning authority for specified matters. Different matters require prior approval depending on which class you are utilising. They might include, for example, the external appearance, the adequacy of natural light in all habitable rooms in the new development and the impact on the amenity of neighbouring premises, Some require a traffic impact and flood risk assessment to be carried out as part of the prior approval process.

The process itself is prescribed in detail in the regulations and a fee may be payable. It will be important to understand the details of the regulations. The process may require almost as much work as a planning application. However, the planning authority cannot consider the principle of the development, nor the full breadth of planning matters that would be considered through a planning application including the provisions of the development plan. So, site allocations and space standard policies, as set out in the local plan, will be irrelevant. In addition, requirements to provide a proportion of the new dwellings as affordable housing will not apply although any applicable community infrastructure levy payments will.

It may still be necessary to obtain listed building consent. It will also be important to check there are no conditions on the existing planning permission, or obligations in any associated S106 Planning Agreement which would preclude the use of the PDR. There may also be restrictions on the title or in the lease to consider together with any rights to light issues

The new law is the subject of a judicial challenge which has yet to be determined by the courts so remains in force pending the court’s decision.

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