On 30 March, the Government published Statutory Instrument no 428 of 2021, an amendment to the General Permitted Development Order.
This short document, which runs to just over 10 pages, along with a very useful nine-page Explanatory Memorandum, packs a big punch and, within a few short pages, heralds some of the biggest development opportunities to be seen for nearly a decade.
The changes bring in a new class of permitted development rights – Class MA – which create new opportunities but with their own unique set of limitations and conditions.
These reforms follow on from the Government’s stated commitment through its “Build, Build, Build” press statement on 30 June 2020, to allow a wider range of commercial buildings “to change to residential use without the need for planning permission.” With Class O permitted development rights (PD) delivering 72,000 new homes from 2015-2020, it is easy to see why the Government looks to back PD rights as a way of meeting our need for new homes.
The advantage of Permitted Development
The creation of PD rights creates some very clear advantages to developers over conventional full (or even outline) planning permission routes:
- Streamlined planning: applications require less time to prepare, with a shorter list of requirements and therefore take less time to determine.
- Greater planning certainty: a shorter list of planning issues that may apply to developments generally mean more certainty, especially if they are matters on which expert opinion would generally be in agreement (e.g. daylight, highways, flood risk).
- Incentivise forms of development: less delay and fewer requirements helps to keep the costs of obtaining permission down and will encourage certain types of development
- Speed-up housing delivery: greater speed and efficiency around PD applications and more certainty aids delivery and improves the prospects of funding.
- No affordable housing – there are usually no s106 planning contributions required under PD towards affordable housing or other matters, such as public open space. Habitats Regulations may require financial contributions towards the mitigation of some nearby areas (e.g. south east, south coast, Thames basin, SANG/SAMM payments and RAMSAR sites) and this should be checked.
In September 2020, the Government re-classified part of the Use Classes Order and merged certain commercial and business uses together in the same category – Use Class E. This meant that offices, light industrial, retail shops, some indoor sports areas, restaurants, health centres and children’s nurseries all fell into the same use class.