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Budget 2018: Hammond set to further loosen permitted development rules

Lipton plant webcrop

Architects will be allowed to extend buildings upwards without planning permission under a proposed widening of permitted development rights (PDR) aimed at tackling the housing crisis

The move, which was trailed earlier in the year, is part of a slew of red tape-busting planning changes announced by chancellor Philip Hammond during yesterday’s budget (29 October). 

The government revealed it had launched a consultation on plans to permit rooftop additions, free from the usual permissions, above ’commercial premises and residential properties including blocks of flats’ and to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.

Hammond also said the proposed reforms would look at the relaxation of planning rules for the ’typical high street’ which would allow shops to be converted ’to change to a wider range of uses, allowing more leisure and community uses such as gyms, libraries, health care and office use’ as well as creating more homes.

According to the consultation document, the policy offers ‘an opportunity to bring forward well-designed homes which enhance the streetscape while making effective use of land for housing, boosting housing density in areas of high demand such as our town centres and high streets, increasing footfall and preventing unwanted garden-grabbing’.

It continues: ’We know that additional new homes are already being brought forward using the airspace above existing buildings and approved through the planning application process. There is now an opportunity to consider the introduction of a permitted development right to further support the creation of additional new homes above certain existing buildings in high streets and town centres.’

The government said the move had been inspired by reports by the likes of Policy Exchange and Create Streets, which noted that ’some of the most densely populated areas of cities are some of the most desirable’ and that ‘English urban areas are relatively low-density by international standards, and that good design means that high density does not have to be the same as tall buildings’.

In November last year property consultant Knight Frank cross-referenced Ordnance Survey and Land Registry data to create a detailed 3D model which concluded that rooftops in London’s fare zones 1 and 2 had enough space to provide for 40,000 new homes. This work followed a separate study carried out in 2016 by HTA Design for rooftop developer Apex Airspace, which put capacity across Greater London at 140,000.

Responding to the PDR announcement, RIBA president Ben Derbyshire warned of the potential for poor-quality schemes to be built. He said: ’It has become clear the permitted development of offices to residential housing has led to terrible homes.

’The government’s consultation on commercial property and upward development must avoid a repeat of these failings by ensuring proper oversight of projects.’

The consultation will run until 14 January 2019.

Victoria skyline after

Victoria skyline after

A study by Max Architects identifying upward extensions in Victoria


Readers' comments (8)

  • No mention of structural /cost viability or disproportionate collapse issues requiring alterations to the existing - I suspect the amount of units achievable is somewhat less than predicted but nonetheless this could lead to some interesting solutions (in an almost Archigram kind of way-hopefully!)

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  • How do Hammond (as well as Policy Exchange and Create Streets if they have been involved) propose to:

    - Balance changing high street uses while abolishing planning? The article suggest a new mix on the high street, including: 'leisure and community uses such as gyms, libraries, health care and office use as well as creating more homes'.
    Without planning it seems likely that run-down high streets will be converted to cheap substandard housing areas quickly and with little (or no) opportunity for ever reverting this.

    - Ensure that this is 'an opportunity to bring forward well-designed homes which enhance the streetscape' while abolishing planning...?
    Given that the planning process is the only way of securing any level of quality in the built environment in the UK outside the most privileged areas this seems unlikely to put it mildly.

    Abolishing planning is not the way forward in an opportunistic society like ours and it must be resisted!

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  • This is an ugly sticking plaster solution to the severe problem arising with the intellectually bankrupt planning system. Left to evolve naturally, conurbations intensify as the population increases. Where intensification occurs, an "invasion and succession" process of core uses replacing peripheral uses takes place, usually at much greater densities. On the other hand planning policy, and the manner in which it is tied up in local politics, increasingly flies in the face of this due to short term-ism and local political expediency. The planning system and its guiding policy does not adequately acknowledge this, instead increasingly tries to preserve a status quo. An intellectual bankrupcy and lack of appropriate oversight on the part of the planning system. Solving this by the blunt device of PDR is not appropriate. The way policy is evolved needs an overhaul. For instance, in the image above of possible sites, I lead the renovation of a building on the camera side of the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral. There was no way the local planning dept would let us extend upwards, yet its shown as having a blue 2 storey uplift. I would say it should have more. Hence why I opened saying the blunt weapon of PDR to overcome the inappropriate local planning response is a sticking plaster not a solution. A more reasoned and intellectually considered approach is required, to encouraging or even demanding intensification when a building is renovated after 60 years of existence, to match population demands for the following 60 years

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  • Simon Devlin

    Could lead to some interesting additions if approached properly. I agree though it won't solve the housing crisis. For me the issue will come down to each individual site, building and the context around. However, one of the issues facing us as an industy is the lack of foresight, common sense, and capacity in local planning departments. You are dealing with LPD's that are under staffed and lack motivation. I agree an overhaul is required and I believe more design / architectural influence through review panels should be mandatory to improve on housing design!

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  • Further extension of PDR is madness. In our now grossly overpopulated country (England is now the most densely populated in Europe, and the fourth most densely populated in the world) development needs to be planned, albeit with much-needed more vision and flexibility than the present planning system offers.

    As for helping to solve the housing crisis, further relaxation of PDR will achieve little or nothing. Only a complete stop to immigration (except for a small number of individuals with highly specialist skills that we may be currently short of) will achieve that. Denying that fact will perpetuate and worsen the crisis.

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  • Peter Phillips - what a load of nonsense, England is the 6th most populated country in Europe (and way down the list in the world).

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  • Industry Professional

    This is a disaster. All for densifying our towns and cities, but this should be done through planning policy and a proactive approach to consenting good schemes, not permitted development. PDR means much reduced control over design, form, materials, and no way of enforcing any kind of space standards - much like the office/resi conversion PDR which has resulted in projects with dire standards

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  • MB “... a load of nonsense ...” eh?

    I had been going to add ‘apart from some small city states and islands’ in my comment but omitted it for simplicity. So, apart from city states like Macau (the most densely populated ‘country’ in the world), Singapore and Monaco etc, and little island states like the Maldives and Bermuda, of the main countries in the world the descending order of population density is as follows:
    Bangladesh (1,149/km2)

    Taiwan (651),

    Rwanda (456) 
and then
    England (413).
If you categorise South Korea as a separate county, never to be reunified with the North, then it’s density of 515 comes in higher than England’s, and because of the advent of the dreadful Syrian war, Lebanon is now also higher than England’s, at a UN projection of 597. So whether 4th or 6th is a matter of detail; we are not “ ... way down the list in the World” as MB claims.

    All other European countries, again except for city states like
    Monaco (18,960),
    Gibraltar(4,874) or the
    Vatican City (2,273) etc., and small island states like
    Malta (1,510) or
    Jersey (898) etc., have lower densities than England. Holland used to be the most dense but we overtook it a couple of decades ago.

    Obviously crude population density figures don’t take into account geographical factors such as the extent of hospitable, usable, agricultural or developable land compared to that which isn’t, but anyone with any sense of observation can see that England is densely populated, congested, and some would say (myself included) overpopulated. You only have to travel 20 miles across the Channel to notice how much we are compared to France for example.

    Apart from the sheer unpleasantness of congestion, one should consider the impact this high desnity has on food security, water resources, energy requirements, and space to accommodate the extra houses that are needed for the 4 million or so immigration since 1997 (when the Blair Govt. came to power). Just after WWII, when Britain’s population was 45 million, we were about 95% self sufficient in food production. Now, with a horrendous population of over 65 million, and growing, we are only 60% self sufficient (2008 DEFRA report) and declining. We can’t therefore afford to use the remaining agricultural land for housing and all the other essential development associated with it. So if the mass immigration continues, we will be condemning young people and their families to cramped and expensive housing, let alone never having the prospect of actually owning a house of their own.

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