Permitted Development Rights in Scotland are currently the subject of a substantial review by the Scottish Government. The originating legislation, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order, dates from 1992 and, although amended on a number of occasions since, it may soon be reviewed and amended to reflect current issues affecting the modern-day developer/ householder. It is envisaged that any such changes will also accord with the Scottish Government’s ambition of net zero emissions by 2045.

The Purpose of Permitted Development Rights

Permitted Development Rights (also known as deemed planning permission) exist to allow certain types of development to progress without the need to first apply for planning permission. These extend, for example, to the development of residential properties, such as works within the curtilage of a house, and enlargement, improvements or alterations, and also various works to agricultural land such as new accesses.

Proposed Changes

In its “Transforming Planning in Practice – Post-Bill Work Programme” published in September 2019, the Scottish Government reaffirmed that Permitted Development Rights are next in line for an overhaul now that the new Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 has received Royal Assent.

A Sustainability Appraisal was conducted while the Planning (Scotland) Bill was progressing. The Appraisal considered options for sixteen development types and, whilst the full extent of the Appraisal is not yet known, the Scottish Government has confirmed that priority consideration will be given to changes in relation to hill tracks (private ways), changes which help to address climate change (such as micro-renewable technologies), measures to support digital connectivity, and measures to support the delivery of affordable homes in rural areas.

In response to the global climate emergency, it is likely that new or extended rights to support ‘green developments’ will feature high on the Scottish Government’s agenda. Possible contenders may include local renewable energy projects and electric vehicle charging points. Reaffirming this, the Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart, recently stated that,

Removing red tape from some of the highest priority projects can be a step towards our goal of a net-zero carbon future.

Cross-Border Comparison

Permitted Development Rights in England are separate from those in Scotland. While the two systems are similar, significant points of difference have increased in recent years.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order dating from 1995, was replaced in 2015 by a new Order (‘the 2015 Order’), following a review of the deemed planning permission process in England.

New Permitted Development Rights were introduced in 2018 with the intention of providing more flexibility for rural families and farmers. This included increasing the number of houses permitted on agricultural land, and extending the size limits that previously applied to development on agricultural land. The UK Government summarises deemed planning permission for farms on their website.

In terms of ‘green developments’ in England, the 2015 Order introduced a number of new or amended rights designed to assist environmentally-friendly measures, such as a right designed to enable greater use of non-domestic properties to provide renewable energy, rights for rechargeable vehicles, and the use of microgeneration biomass heating systems in domestic properties.

In March 2019, the former Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, confirmed that the UK Government intends to make further reforms to Permitted Development Rights, such as increasing size limits for off-street electric vehicle charging points in order to support improved air quality and the environment by increasing the usage of zero emission vehicles.

Conclusion

The full scale of the Scottish Government’s plans to review the existing Permitted Development Rights is not yet known, but this will become clearer once the results of the Appraisal are released in due course. With the Scottish Government working towards net zero emissions by 2045, however, it is likely that concessions for green developments will be made to achieve this ambition.