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Planning by Degrees

Planning consultant David Kemp BSc (Hons) MRICS Barrister* (*non-practising) and Director at DRK Planning Ltd, comments

Obtaining planning permission for new development, either new extensions or changes of use (including converting houses to flats) can be a slow and difficult process. It is not surprising that many SME developers want to stick to permitted development and prior approval; although they also carry a degree of planning risk.

However, there can be many common reasons why obtaining planning permission may be inevitable in order to move forward in your development business. Where you do need to follow the path toward full planning permission, a recent case that we got through for one of our clients demonstrates the patience required to get to the final objective – in this case, increasing the size of the building and converting a house to four flats.

Mixing it up: beyond Permitted Development
It is becoming increasingly difficult for SME developers and investors to avoid the need to have to go for full planning permission for the following reasons:

  • Awareness of PD and prior approval amongst vendors and agents leads to high land values, leading to the need to find extra value through increased building and other development.
  • Popular development strategies that do not have a PD or Prior Approval route, such as converting houses to flats, HMOs for 7 or more people, pub conversions.
  • Increased use of Article 4 Directions in recent years to withdraw permitted development rights.

Even where PD or prior approval might be available, such as converting offices to residential use, the scheme as a whole might still require changes to the exterior of the building. This may mean a change of materials, or changing the size or profile of the roof or adding new windows; all of which might be contentious. If the building is in a conservation area, then this adds to the challenge of getting permission. It is for these reasons, that more often than not developers will have to combine PD and prior approval strategies with full planning permission.

Getting your priorities straight
The starting point for most house conversion schemes that start life out as a single-dwelling house will be to increase the size of the property first.

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