The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 grants deemed planning permission for a wide variety of works and changes of use that would otherwise require express planning permission. Those deemed planning permissions are known as ‘permitted development rights’.

On 30 May 2013, the Government implemented a temporary right to permit offices to change their use to become dwellings. In light of the shortage of residential properties in the UK market, the provision was welcomed by developers and first time buyers attempting to get a foot on the property ladder. The temporary right was due to expire on 30 May 2016.

To the surprise of many, the Government announced on 13 October 2015 that the temporary right would be made permanent, in order to assist with the housing shortage problem and to create more habitable homes. On initial inspection, this will, of course, help to increase the number of homes available. But reducing the amount of office space within small towns will inevitably result in fewer jobs available, which could be counterproductive.

The permitted development rights are also being extended to enable the change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to residential use. This will be subject to the Local Planning Authorities’ (LPA) prior approval and the Government will provide further details.

AREAS WHERE PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS DO NOT APPLY

There are currently areas including individual buildings, roads or zones within 17 local authorities in England that are currently exempt from the office to residential permitted development rights. These include:

  • The City of London
  • The London Central Activities Zone, which covers parts of the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington and Chelsea
  • Areas in the borough councils of Stevenage (Hertfordshire) and Ashford (Kent)
  • Areas in the district councils of Sevenoaks and East Hampshire
  • Manchester City Centre.

These currently exempt areas have until May 2019 to make an ‘Article 4 direction’ if they wish to continue determining planning applications for the change of use. An Article 4 direction is made by the LPA to remove permitted development rights. Although the Article 4 directions do not need to be approved by the Secretary of State, he/ she must be notified and can modify or cancel the direction.

While creating more habitable homes is a prime concern for the UK, will this be to the detriment of affordable commercial space for new up and coming businesses? In the future, it is anticipated that the provision will permit the demolition of old commercial buildings in order to build new homes. It will evidently take a number of years before the true impact of the new measures are felt but, by that time, will it be too late?