Proposed Changes to Permitted Development Rights
By Sam Knowlton, Graduate Planner and Mark Richards, Associate Planning Consultant
On the 24th July 2023, the Government published a consultation document highlighting possible options for amending The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. Interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the potential changes by 25th September 2023.
What are permitted development rights?
The General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) provides a comprehensive overview of the types of development that may take place without applying for planning permission. These are commonly referred to as permitted development (PD) rights. There are PD rights covering a wide range of development types. Some examples include extensions to residential properties, the erection of farm buildings and the change of use of land and buildings. For each PD right there is a list of criteria and conditions that must be satisfied.
For certain types of PD it is necessary to submit an application to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) for prior approval. Generally speaking the purpose of the prior approval process is to allow the LPA to assess specific developments against a limited range of issues – for example flood risk, noise, contamination, transport and highway impacts.
It is important to note that the PD rights outlined within the GPDO apply to England only.
So, what are proposed changes and what effect might they have on the future of PD and prior approval applications in England? This blog focusses on some of the most significant proposals in the Government consultation below.
Class MA – Change of use from commercial, business and service (Use Class E) to residential (Use Class C3)
- Increase the maximum floor area allowance from 1500sqm to 3000sqm. Or potentially removing the upper limit entirely.
- Remove the requirement for premises to be vacant for three months prior to submitting an application or prior approval.
- Expand the use of the PD right within areas of Article 2(3) land. Although Class MA already applies to Conservation Areas, this proposal would also allow the PD right within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), National Parks and the Broads. World Heritage Sites would remain exempt.
The proposed changes would significantly expand the scope of the PD right, both in terms of floor space allowances and the areas in which it applies.
Class Q – Change of use and operational development to convert agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses (Use Class C3)
- Replace the existing ‘smaller’ and ‘larger’ home floor space limits with a single upper limit of either 100sqm or 150sqm per home.
- Set an overall limit on the amount of floor space that can change use to 1000sqm.
- Increase the maximum number of homes that can be delivered on a single farm unit from 5 to 10.
- Allow for extensions to be delivered as part of the development.
- Require that existing buildings have a floor space of at least 37sqm to align with national minimum space standards.
- Allow the PD right to apply within areas of article 2(3) land. This would include Conservation Areas, AONBs, National Parks and the Broads. World Heritage Sites would remain exempt.
- Allow the PD right to apply to buildings not solely used for agricultural purposes. Buildings would however need to form part of an agricultural unit.
- Expanding the PD right to apply to former agricultural buildings no longer forming part of an agricultural unit.
- Requiring that existing buildings already have suitable access to a public highway.
- Expand the type of buildings that may benefit from the PD right. So rather than only applying to agricultural buildings (as is currently the case) the right could apply to other land uses e.g. forestry, equestrian or other predominantly rural use.
Overall the proposed changes would double the number of dwellings that can be delivered under the PD right and would also simplify the floor space allowances. It also aims to significantly expand the areas within which the right applies and even extend it (or create a new PD right) to non-agricultural buildings. However, the proposal to set maximum floor space limits for new homes at either 100sqm or 150sqm would actually represent a reduction from the current cap of 465sqm.
The proposal to allow extensions as part of the PD right represents a further significant change, as currently no extensions are permitted at all (even a flue extending beyond the roofline). The requirement that existing buildings are at least 37sqm seems unnecessary, particularly given new homes must achieve minimum space standards anyway. This requirement becomes further unnecessary if the right is to allow extensions.
Class R – Change of use of rural buildings to flexible commercial use (Use Class E, B8 or C1)
- Increase the total amount of floor space that can change use from 500sqm to 1000sqm.
- Expand the type of buildings that may benefit from the PD right. So rather than only applying to agricultural buildings (as is currently the case) the right could apply to other land uses e.g. forestry, equestrian or other predominantly rural uses.
- Widen the scope of the PD right to allow change of use to outdoor sports, recreation or fitness (use Class F2) and general industrial (use Class B2). The latter would be limited to the processing of raw goods produced on the site and which are to be sold on site (excluding livestock).
- Amending the right to allow for a mix of uses to be provided within a single building. Currently the PD right only allows for one use at a time.
- Responses are being sought on whether the right should be expanded to allow changes to other commercial uses that could support the rural economy.
- Responses are also being sought on whether the trigger for when prior approval is required is set at the right level (currently 150sqm).
The proposed changes demonstrate a clear intention from the Government to expand the scope of the PD right to deliver a wider range of uses and larger commercial premises in rural areas.
Agricultural development on units of 5 hectares or more (Class A of Part 6)
- Increase the ground area limit for new buildings or extensions from 1000sqm to 1500sqm.
- Remove the PD right within designated scheduled monuments.
Agricultural development on units of less than 5 hectares (Class B of Part 6)
- Increase the ground area limit for building extensions to 1250sqm. The limit is currently set at 1000sqm.
- Increase the cubic content limit for building extensions to 25% above it original content. The limit is currently set at 20%.
- Remove the PD right within designated scheduled monuments.
These proposals aim to further build upon the expansion of agricultural PD rights introduced in 2018 and will enable farm businesses to develop buildings at a larger scale, while providing greater protection to designated scheduled monuments.
Although the proposed changes are not yet confirmed it would certainly appear the Government intends to significantly expand the scope of permitted development rights with the aim of increasing the supply of new homes and commercial premises, particularly in rural areas.
If you would like to understand how these proposed changes could affect you then please contact our Development Land & Planning department here.