Regulations 13 through to 17 amend the 2015 General Permitted Development Order to require that buildings which are converted to residential dwellings receive appropriate consideration by the Local Planning Authority to the “provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwelling houses”. The amendments will apply to all those dwelling houses constructed under Class M (proposed change of use from retail, hot food takeaway or specific sui generis uses to a dwelling house), Class N (proposed change of use from specified sui generis uses to a dwelling house), Class O (proposed change of use from offices to dwelling houses), Class PA (proposed change of use from light industrial use to dwelling house), and Class Q (proposed change of use from agricultural building to dwelling house).
These Regulations, along with additional requirements that applicants for these types of permitted developments submit floor and elevation plans which will provide the local authority with the chance to scrutinise the positioning, dimensions and the provision of natural light into habitable rooms, hope to secure the comfortable occupancy of dwelling houses in light of recent criticism that there have been some developments which have taken advantage of the fact that there is no minimum requirement for the provision of windows in the converted dwelling houses. The relevant provisions come into force on 1 August 2020.
Probably of more interest is Regulation 22 of the 2020 Regulations which introduces a new permitted development right which allows for the construction of up to an additional two storeys to create new accommodation on top of existing purpose built, detached blocks of flats. It introduces a new Part 20 to Schedule 2 of the 2015 GPDO and the new permitted rights include all the reasonably necessary engineering operations, the replacement of existing plant or installation of additional plant onto the roof of the extended building, access and egress works, and works for the construction of storage, waste of other ancillary facilities.
However, it comes with many caveats which provide the usual labyrinthine march around the planning regime. Some conditions and limitations are perhaps more obvious and logical than others, for instance the original building must be more than 3 storeys in height, each additional storey must be no more than 3 metres in height (or more than the height of any of the existing storeys). Slightly less logical is the restriction that additional storeys are not permitted on buildings where the change of use for residential has only been granted by virtue of the permitted development rights contained in Classes M, N, O, P, PA or Q of the 2015 GPDO. This therefore restricts the development of former detached office blocks which have been converted to residential flats from being extended further upwards. The new rights will also not be applicable on properties that were constructed either before 1 July 1948 or after 5 March 2018.
As to be expected, the new right to build additional storeys on existing dwellings cannot be used where the land is located on or forms part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, green belt, a national park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a listed building or land within the curtilage of a listed building, a scheduled monument or land within the curtilage of a scheduled monument, a safety hazard area, a military explosive storage area, or land within 3 km of the perimeter of an aerodrome. In these areas, full planning permission will be required. Furthermore, the developer must apply to the Local Planning Authority for prior approval as to certain impacts of the proposed development before commencing works and any works must be completed within 3 years from the date that prior approval is granted. Any new dwelling house created under this Class must also remain in use as a dwelling house (within the meaning of class C3) and for no other purpose during its lifetime (subject obviously to the law changing its mind).
Developers are quite used to dealing with restricted and conditional permitted development rights and so there will be no surprise to experienced developers that the “permissions” granted by the new Regulations by way of the amendment of the 2015 Order contain a variety of restrictions and requirements which, in practice, often involve just as much preparation as a standard planning application.
Future household expansions
An explanatory memorandum published alongside the new Regulations states that the government “also intends to introduce further permitted development rights for building upwards, including for new and bigger homes”. The indication from government is that individual householders of detached properties will eventually benefit from additional rights to increase the size of their home upwards without the need for express planning permission from the local authority.