Back in 2015, the Government raised the prospect of creating a new permitted development right, allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and rebuilt as residential properties without the need for full planning permission.  

It has taken three years*, but the proposal has now finally made it into a consultation paper, which was published immediately following the budget in late October. 

The consultation paper acknowledges that this new right would be a significant extension to the permitted development regime, which will need to be carefully designed. 

Indeed it invites "Comments ... on the scope of this right to ensure that it brings as many appropriate sites forward for development as possible. It may be that a right focused on smaller sites may be more practical in the light of the use of prior approvals. For example, in constructing a right it could be necessary to consider the size of the site; the height and density of new buildings; the existing use of the site; the relationship with local plan policies for key sites and areas where the right should apply. As with existing permitted development rights, development that is screened as having an environmental impact would be out of scope of the right. 

1.48 Permitted development rights allow for consideration of specific matters through prior approval by the local planning authority. As demolition and redevelopment would be more ambitious than existing permitted development rights, comments are also invited on how prior approvals could be best used to mitigate the impacts of such development on the local area."

As such, it looks as if the right which comes out of the consultation process is likely to be significantly more limited than its predecessors and, quite possibly, subject to a far more involved prior approval process. 

It looks as if the Government is considering:

  • limiting the right to sites or buildings of a specific size;
  • specifying the required heights or densities of the replacement residential units; or
  •  restricting it to sites which have a specific existing use or comply with specific local plan policies.

Similarly, they are also considering adjusting the prior approval process to allow Councils to require affordable housing and s.106 contributions as part of the permitted development scheme.

Given the level of detail that is likely to be required in order to take advantage of the new permitted development rights; there is a real risk that the benefits for developers hoping to use them will be outweighed by the sheer amount of admin involved in attempting to do so.

We shall have to wait and see whether the new rights will provide the boost to housing numbers that the Government clearly desires - or whether they will end up being drowned in a morass of paperwork.

If you want to avoid the latter, I strongly recommend responding to the consultation before it closes on 14 January 2019.

* Well... they do say that patience is a virtue...