30 Jun 2020

Guest Post by Planning Consultant Colin Smith

New permitted development right allowing two-storey upwards extensions to blocks of flats were published On 25 June 2020 by John Geoghegan.

New rules allowing blocks of flats to be extended upwards by two storeys to create new homes without the need for planning permission come into force on 1 August.

The Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 says the provision comes into force on 1 August.

Regulation 22 of the statutory instrument amends the the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 to introduce a new PD right, which allows the construction of up to two storeys “to create new flats on the topmost residential storey of a building which is an existing purpose-built, detached block of flats”.

The regulations state that the right is restricted to buildings of three storeys or more in height and the extended building must not be more than 30 metres in total height.

Meanwhile, the height of the extension cannot be greater than seven metres compared to the highest part of the existing roof, while any new storeys must be individually no more than three metres in height.

The new homes must also be flats, the instrument states, while the right only applies to buildings built after 1 July 1948 and before 5 March 2018 and excludes those within a site of special scientific interest.

Development is only permitted subject to prior approval. Conditions for local authority consideration include: transport and highways impacts; air traffic and defence asset impacts; contamination and flooding risks.

In addition, councils can also take into account the building’s external appearance; the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms; the impact on the amenity of the existing building and neighbouring premises “including overlooking, privacy and the loss of light”; and whether “because of the siting of the building, the development will impact on a protected view”.

Speaking at Planning’s National Planning Summit this morning, planning and housing minister Christopher Pincher promised that further PD rights easing the conversion of offices and retail space into new homes would be revealed “shortly”.

He said: “The regulations were laid yesterday for a PD right for upward building on existing free-standing blocks of flats.

“For blocks of pre-existing flats of three storeys or more, you can add up to two further stories as long as the total height height is at or less than 30 metres.

“In order to do that, the local authority will be able to have regard to things like the effects on traffic and congestion, things like the external appearance of the building, so there will still be local controls.

“We’ll look to do further such innovation shortly so that we can make better use of our existing building infrastructure and better use of commercial office space such as offices and retail moving into residential use.”

The upwards extension PD right has long been proposed by recent Tory or Tory-led governments, and several different measures have been consulted on but never introduced.

In March, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the government would introduce a new permitted development (PD) right “to encourage building upwards” by the summer.

At the time, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) also said developers will be “able to demolish vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings and replace them with well-designed homes without getting delayed in a lengthy planning process, under new plans being consulted on by the government, meaning that more homes will be able to be delivered more quickly”.

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