Currently the Scottish Planning system allows owners of houses to carry out a limited amount of development, without having to apply for planning permission. Proposals published by the Scottish Government last month seek to relax these controls by expanding the circumstances in which a house holder may carry out development without the need for planning consent.

The Scottish Government's consultation paper on householder permitted development rights, (which includes a draft Town and Country Planning (Household Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order) replicates certain existing permitted development rights from the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992, and introduces new permitted development rights which relate solely to householders.

Broadly speaking, there are two principal purposes of the Draft Order:

  • to increase the freedom and flexibility of householders to carry out development without being subject to the constraints of the planning system, and
  • to reduce the workload burden on planning authorities by removing certain householder developments (which Scottish Government research suggests comprises around 15% of all planning applications) from the planning process.

Profound change

The draft Order offers profound change in permitted development rights for householders. The most significant of these is the proposed increase in permitted development within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse. The draft Order will increase permitted development rights within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse from 30% of the curtilage under current permitted development rights to 40%, and amend the proportional increase in the size of the original dwellinghouse from 10% of the internal floor area currently permitted to 50% of the development footprint of the original dwellinghouse. Both of these permitted development rights will be restricted to the extent that only 40 percent of the rear curtilage can be developed and the maximum area of any such development will be 60 square metres.

Change to the 20 metre rule

The draft Order also amends the current "20 metre rule". The existing rule broadly states that certain developments cannot occur within 20 metres of a road, so that street-facing development in front gardens which would undermine the street scene is prevented. The knock-on effect of this, given the 20 metre distance, is that it may prevent development in other areas included in the curtilage of dwellinghouses, even where would be no palpable impact upon the street scene. The draft order will remove this rule and create a new approach which in part relates restrictions on development to the "principal elevation" of a house, while maintaining general restrictions on development near a road.

To expand on the new approach, the "principal elevation" is generally defined by reference to the principal or main entrance to a dwellinghouse. It does not have to be the most-used, it simply has to be the one that was designed as the main formal entrance. Establishing the principal elevation will, in turn, allow the side and rear elevations to be determined and therefore indicate whether development is to take place at the front, side or rear of a dwellinghouse.

This new definition is to be used to clarify the permitted development rights which are to replace the 20 metre rule. In terms of development to extend original dwellinghouses the rule is clear: development cannot take place to extend the dwellinghouse nearer to the road than the principal or side elevations. In terms of development separate to the dwellinghouse, but within its curtilage, there is a one metre height restriction on any development within five metres of a road, provided that the development itself is closer to the road than the dwellinghouse. In both cases general restrictions also apply to the effect that any such development must not obstruct the view or cause a danger to any road users.

New classes of permitted development rights

Permitted development rights in relation to roofs are also included in the draft Order. In addition to permitting alterations to a roof as part of an extension to a dwellinghouse, it also permits the construction of dormer windows in the original roof and the installation of velux windows.

Additional new classes of permitted development rights include:

  • hard-surfacing within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse, with surface water restrictions on any such development over five square metres;
  • the construction of decking, provided it is not within two metres of the boundary of the dwellinghouse and subject to a one metre height restriction;
  • the construction of a porch, subject to the development footprint being no greater than three square metres and a height restriction of three; and
  • the installation of a chimney, subject to a height restriction of one metre above the height of the existing roof.

Impact of these proposals

There can be little doubt that implementation of these proposals will reduce the workload of planning officials. The extent to which this has a real impact in the current market may be questionable. However, it is important to take a long-term view, and in this context the broad range of developments permitted in the draft Order certainly promote a flexible, pro-development system.

On the face of it the Scottish Government has applied a practical judgement to the types of developments that should attract permitted development rights. That said, a question mark may remain in terms of the scale of these rights, in particular the right to increase the development footprint of an original dwelling by 50%. Although this is arguably an exceptional freedom to be conferred on a householder, it may alter the balance of the planning system in terms of the protection it is expected to give to neighbouring proprietors.

Consultation on the draft Order is open until Friday 13 March 2009.

To view the Consultation on the draft Town and Country Planning (Household Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order click here