Permitted Development Rights Consultation
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) recently consulted on proposed changes to certain Permitted Development Rights (PDR) which are intended to support, amongst other things, housing delivery. The intention is that these amendments would provide further flexibility and facilitate the delivery of more, much needed homes. There are some significant changes proposed which, if adopted, would certainly go a long way to helping with the delivery of housing.
Extension / removal of the Class MA floorspace threshold
One of the headline amendments is the proposal to extend the current Class MA floorspace threshold which currently has a limit of 1,500 sq m for the change of use of a building in Class E use to residential. The consultation proposes doubling this threshold to 3,000 sq m or potentially removing this limit altogether. Obviously this will have significant advantages for larger sites where previously the applicant would have had to apply for full planning permission, with the added costs and scrutiny that encompasses. This amendment will no doubt be an attractive proposition for those with larger commercial sites looking to convert to residential without having to go through the full planning application process as it will ensure that proposals are in agreement with the council’s relevant policies.
Removal of the three month vacancy requirement
Another proposed change is to remove the requirement for a property to be vacant for a continuous period of three months immediately prior to an application for prior approval being submitted. One of the main ‘bugbears’ with the current Class MA legislation is the three month vacancy period, which can leave property vacant for long periods resulting in unwanted costs to owners. Should this requirement be removed, it would be welcomed almost universally by those looking to benefit from Class MA.
Application to Article 2(3) land
A more controversial amendment is whether Class MA should also apply to Article 2(3) land which, currently, it does not. Article 2(3) land includes Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks. It also includes Conservation Areas (although the current Class MA legislation can be applied in Conservation Areas). The Government is seeking views on broadening the right to enable its use for other types of Article 2(3) land (with the exception of World Heritage Sites). Because PDR cannot change the external features of a building, this amendment will not see a change the physical appearance of buildings in these areas, but it could see a change in the overall character of the area and an increase in residential footfall.
Extension to include (Class C1) to residential
Currently there is no PDR in place to facilitate change of use for hotels, boarding houses or guest houses (Class C1) to residential. The consultation proposes extending PDR to allow hotels to convert to residential, although this could see specific safeguards come in to play, including a consideration of the impacts that the change of use could have on the local tourism economy. A size limit may also be applied on the amount of floorspace that can be converted.
The above are just some of the proposed changes the Government has put forward to help with the delivery of housing and there are a number of other proposals which aim to deliver housing more efficiently.
As is always the case with such consultations and ideas to increase the delivery of housing, it is difficult to say whether or not these proposed changes will actually see an increase in housing delivery. Whilst in theory they appear positive from the point of view of developers, it is no secret that PDR has become more complex in terms of the number of conditions and the requirement for what seems to be an ever increasing need for supporting technical documents. The devil, as the say, is in the detail, but it will be worth keeping an eye on not only the outcome of the consultation but on housing figures, should the changes be adopted.