16 March 2016
Previously extended Permitted Development Rights are to be made permanent, and new rights are to be trialled, from this April. The General Permitted Development (England) (Amendment) Order 2016 was last week laid before Parliament and comes into force on 6th April.
Made permanent - office to residential use
The Order makes permanent the existing temporary right to change a building used as an office into residential use (Class O of Part 3 of Schedule 2). Article 7(1)(a) extends until 30th May 2019 the exemption from Class O of areas listed in Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the Order. Developers will first need to apply to the local planning authority (LPA) for a determination as to whether a prior approval is required on limited grounds.
The Order now adds potential impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development to the other grounds which are flood and contamination risks and transport and highways impacts.
But a previously proposed condition, on the need to consider the ‘potential impact of the significant loss of the most strategically important office accommodation’, has not found its way into the Order. Perhaps this is because LPAs could have used the condition as a powerful tool to object to a large number of prior approval applications, particularly those for larger office complexes.
Many authorities sought to secure exclusions from the temporary rights and the current exclusion areas remain in place until 30th May 2019. This date allows local authorities to issue article 4 directions ‘in line with national policy’ which exempt areas from the new permanent permitted development rights. We expect there may well be a plethora of article 4 directions. But the Government clearly doesn’t want extensive exemptions as this would reduce the amount of housing coming forward from this source so it will be interesting to see what happens next.
Surprisingly, the amended Class O does not include the previously proposed rights to demolish offices and replace with housing. There is speculation that this will be brought in under separate legislation following the passing of the Housing and Planning Bill. Indeed, an Impact Assessment carried out last year and approved by Brandon Lewis, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, states that “detail on the permitted development right for the demolition of an office building and its replacement with a residential building is being developed”. The proposal remains live, the mechanisms are being put in place, but as ever the key will be in the detail.
Temporary right- Light industrial to residential use
The Order creates a temporary right, under a new Use Class PA, for the change of use from light industrial to residential use.
As with office conversions, developers must apply for determination as to whether prior approval is required on limited grounds, although these do not include noise impacts. However, the Order does introduce a fourth issue to be assessed by councils - whether a proposed change of use would have an adverse impact on the delivery of industrial, storage or distribution services. As this is similar to the concerns raised by councils over loss of office floorspace, this seems an inconsistent move. The use of this issue could significantly dilute the use of this right.
The application cannot be made on and before 30th September 2017 and the prior approval date must be on or before 30th September 2020. The Order allows development to be completed up to three years from the prior approval date.
Puzzlingly, the permitted development right excludes many light industrial premises with potential for conversion. For example, big sheds don’t count as the gross floor space mustn’t exceed 500 sq metres. So we are talking small developments, probably apartments.
The tumbledown country shed –an ideal candidate for a cottage conversion, you might think - does not necessarily make the grade either. Its use must be light industrial rather than agricultural, and if it is within an agricultural tenancy, the express consent of the landlord and the tenant must be obtained. Conversion is also not permitted for listed buildings or for those sheds within the curtilage of a listed building. The site is also ruled out if it is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and is, or contains, a scheduled monument
Can light industrial conversions deliver housing?
Where, then, are these light industrial conversions going to be and who will benefit? If located on industrial estates, will individual conversions provide high quality housing and urban space? For a family, a lack of garden and a reasonable outlook are likely to be major drawbacks. Unlike an office block, most small, light industrial premises are effectively single-storey which severely limits the footprint. Although, in theory, a group of premises could be developed into a residential scheme, many older industrial estates are in multiple occupancy and a consensus would have to be reached.
The jury is out as to whether this permitted development right will deliver the same level of homes as the Government claims has been achieved by the right relating to offices.
Under either of the permitted development rights, the Order requires a developer changing a building to residential use to supply a statement to the local authority specifying the number of new dwelling houses proposed by the development.
Graham can be contacted on O113 219 2515 or at email@example.com