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New Planning Laws, And What They Mean For You – Part 2

Planning law changes to General Permitted DevelopmentIn part 1 we described the changes to The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 and what that means for the uses of a property.

There are more changes, though, this time to The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.

The changes, which we will outline below, introduce new permitted development rights allowing certain residential developments without the need for express planning permission. The rights allow buildings and homes to be extended vertically, or for flats or offices to be demolished and replaced with taller residential buildings, both creating more living accommodation which will hopefully help to alleviate the housing shortage in England.

Looking at the detail of the changes

From 1st August 2020 it is possible to add up to two new floors on top of an existing detached block of flats. The idea is that the government is helping developers to build new and additional homes without needing to find new land to build on.

It sounds a little strange, but the principle is that we will be building up rather than building out.

There are, of course, important qualifications which include:

  • It is allowed to build two additional floors on a purpose-built block of flats
  • The flats must have been constructed between 1st July 1948 and 5th March 2018
  • The new flats (on top of the existing flats) must be C3 'houses and flats', or in other words they cannot be used as houses in multiple occupation.
  • The original building must already be 3 stories in height (above ground)
  • The final building cannot exceed the existing building by more than 7 metres
  • The final building cannot exceed 30m total height
  • Premises that have already benefitted from a PDR (Permitted Developments Rights) to change its use to residential are excluded
  • And there are a number of typical exclusions such as it is a site of special scientific interest, it is a listed building, it is in a safety hazard area, etc.

From 31st August 2020 a similar thing can be done with houses and other buildings as well - extending them vertically. There are four instances (new classes) where this can be done:

  • Class AA - new storeys can be built on top of a dwelling house.
  • Class AB - new flats can be added on top of terrace or semi-detached buildings in commercial or mixed (including residential) use.
  • Class AC - new flats can be added on top of terrace or semi-detached houses. This is similar to class AB but for houses rather than commercial/mixed buildings.
  • Class AD - new flats can be added on top of detached dwelling houses.

In all cases, two storeys can be added to a house/building that already has two storeys, or one storey added to a house/building with one existing storey. Note that rooms below ground or in the roof do not count as a storey.

This is not a free-for-all in terms of what can be done when extending. For example:

  • Storeys must be constructed on the 'principal part' of the building
  • The height of the extended building must be less than 30m
  • The floor to ceiling height of new storeys is limited to the lower of 3m or the highest existing storey; the maximum height extension is 7m
  • Changes must avoid visible support structures
  • Visible plant cannot be added to the extended roof if there no visible plant on the existing roof, and even if there was then the plant on the extended roof cannot be higher than the existing plant

Of course there are limitations, including things like natural light in all rooms, the impact on the amenity space of other neighbouring buildings, or impact on local air control. These are considered through a prior notification application to your local Council before development can start.

It is hard to imagine many properties, particularly homes, extending upwards. One would imagine that the engineering difficulties and costs would be very high, and presumably you would have to take the roof off your house to do it.

What is likely to be much more attractive to developers is the new Class ZA. This allows a block of flats or a single detached office/light industrial building to be demolished and replaced with a new block of flats or house, which can be up to two storeys higher than the previous structure.

What criteria apply to this new class?

They are:

  • The existing building must have a smaller footprint than 1000m2
  • You cannot demolish a part of a building or more than one building
  • The maximum height of the existing building, including radio masts, is 18m
  • The existing building must have been constructed on or before 31st December 1989 and have been vacant for 6 months
  • The new building can be two storeys higher than the old, as long as the height is not increased by more than 7m and the maximum height is less than 18m
  • The new building cannot become a house in multiple occupancy

Once again there is the need to apply to the Council for prior approval before development starts which gives it the chance to consider issues such as design, impact on neighbours and highway impacts.

The government has said that the purpose behind these changes is to make redevelopment on brownfield sites easier, which will reduce the pressure on greenfield sites. The more efficient use of previously development land is welcomed provided the detail is right.

Again, there is a lot more detail behind these changes to the regulation, we have elided over some of the deep detail; please do not take legal advice from a blog. If you are interested in a development that is affected or made possible by the new regulations and you need advice or help, please contact us.

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