Well, it’s certainly been a roller coaster few weeks in the planning-sphere, culminating in Johnson and Jenrick finally releasing their white paper vision for a new national zoning system. Largely ditching local plans in favour of graded areas of protection, renewal, and growth and riding roughshod over the democratic consultation process, the document also contains reforms for the CIL and S106 regimes, as well as a renewed focus on housing assessment, design codes and masterplans. Also, don’t forget the changes to the Use Classes Order which come into effect on 1st September. There is much to digest with this comprehensive overhaul – and we’ll certainly be making our views known to MHCLG in due course.
But in the interim, let’s not overlook the changes that have been rushed in to stimulate the development industry in the short term, not least the raft of new permitted development rights that have just come into force. Again, there’s alot to take in, but here’s a quick trawl through some of the basics which you’ll particularly need to know if you’re in the business of housing:
The New Part
The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No’s 2 and 3) Order 2020 came into force in August, and inserted the following classes into a newly introduced Part 20 of Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015:
- Class ZA introduces the right to demolish vacant or redundant freestanding commercial (B1) or residential blocks of flats (C3) and replace them with new residential buildings.
It only applies to buildings up to 1,000sqm constructed before 1 January 1990. It doesn’t apply to detached or terraced dwellings or to mixed-use buildings (other than above), or to listed buildings, buildings in national parks, Conservation Areas, the Broads, AONB’s or World Heritage Sites.
The right allows for a replacement residential building (a single dwelling or flats) to be up to 7 metres higher than the demolished premises, up to a maximum height of 18 metres. It cannot extend beyond the footprint of the existing building or exceed 1,000sqm.
A Prior Approval application is required, which amongst other things considers matters of design, external appearance, impacts on amenity, heritage, archaeology and on protected views. The building must have been vacant for at least 6 months before the prior approval application, and the development (both demolition and replacement) must be completed within three years of it being granted.
- Class A allows existing blocks of flats to be extended upwards to create new self-contained homes.
It doesn’t apply to flats that have already been converted from offices, and can’t be used for listed buildings, in Conservation Areas or the above sensitive designated areas.
The right allows for the construction of safe access to the new floors, and up to 2 additional storeys of accommodation can be created. The new storeys must no higher than any of the existing storeys (or exceed 3m in height), not exceed the highest part of the existing roof by 7m, and not result in a final building exceeding 30m in height.
Again, Prior Approval is required. So this also requires a formal application process.
- Class AA permits up to two additional storeys to be added to buildings in use as shops, financial/professional services, restaurants or cafes, offices, betting offices, pay day loan shops or launderettes, or to mixes of these uses including residential.
The building must be three or more storeys in height in the first instance.
This right applies to buildings constructed between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018, and cannot be used for listed buildings or buildings in sensitive designated areas. The extension cannot exceed the existing building height by more than 7 metres or result in a structure taller than 30 metres.
Yes, a Prior Approval application is also required for this development.
- Class AB enables new dwellings to be built on top of terraced buildings in commercial or mixed uses (up to two additional storeys over a two storey structure, and one additional storey over a single storey).
This right doesn’t apply to buildings pre July 1948 and post 5 March 2018, and again can’t be used for listed buildings, in Conservation Areas or in sensitive designated areas.
The resulting building shouldn’t be higher than 18m, and the extension shouldn’t exceed the existing height of the building by more than 7m or 3.5m (two-storey/single), or 3.5m above the height of any other structure in the terrace. The new home must be a flat. Class AC allows new dwellings on top of terraced buildings in use as single dwellinghouses, subject to the same caveats.
You’ve guessed it, a Prior Approval application is also required for development within Class AB too.
- Class AD allows new dwellings to be constructed above single detached dwellinghouses (same storey restrictions as above).
Again, this right doesn’t apply to buildings pre 1948 and post 5 March 2018, and can’t be used for listed buildings or in sensitive designated areas.
The extension shouldn’t exceed the existing height by 7m or result in a building taller than 18m, and no new storey may exceed 3.5m. No support structures must be visible externally, and the new storeys must be used as a dwelling.
Same old same old, Prior Approval is also required for this option. So an application process is necessary.
Amendments to Part 1
In addition to the new Part 20, the existing Part 1 of Schedule 2 (development within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse) has also been revisited, with the following new class inserted:
- Class AA permits the upward extension of an existing house with new habitable accommodation (up to two additional storeys over a two storey structure, and one additional storey over a single storey).
It doesn’t apply to listed buildings, in Conservation Areas or in sensitive designated areas etc, or to houses built before 1948 or after 28 October 2018.
It’s subject to a maximum height limit of 18 metres, and where the house is in a terrace the height must not exceed 3.5m higher than the tallest dwelling in the row. The extension must also be on the principal elevation of the house, the external materials must match, and no external support structures should be visible.
Prior Approval is required, with a raft of matters for consideration (transport, air traffic, contamination, flood risk, external appearance, natural light, impacts on amenity, noise, impacts of trade, impacts on protected views).
So, on the face of it there appears quite a lot of leeway here (clearly pitched at the housing sector), but these classes are not as straightforward as they initially appear and do need some unpicking. The heritage and environmental sensitivities will obviously preclude their use in many areas, and the Prior Approval caveats (which is necessary in all instances) mean that these still involve an application process with LPA’s retaining control over many aspects of these proposals. Whilst the principle of the works are a given, in many instances you will still be obliged to demonstrate that matters of design, external appearance, amenity etc are acceptable, so don’t underestimate the information requirements of these (note that natural light and external appearance is now a Prior Approval matter for dwellings created under PD – a welcome restraint).
We’ll all be grappling with these new rights over the coming months, and no doubt some interesting case law will emerge as they are exercised and challenged. Hopefully they can unlock or add value to some under-efficient sites, or simply help you improve your own domestic living arrangements – do get in touch if we can make them work for you.
And then onto that change of use and zoning thing…..