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MPs call for pause on permitted development rights

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A group of MPs has called on the government to pause any further extensions of permitted development rights (PDRs) for change of use of commercial buildings to residential until it has conducted a review of PDRs’ role in the wider planning system.

A report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee warned that some homes built under PDRs are of poor quality and that recent changes to the policy could undermine attempts to revitalise the high street and the ability of local authorities to plan development.

It added that the prior approval process for residential PDRs might have become so complicated it is now little different from the full planning process.

Following an examination of the government’s recent changes to PDRs in respect of large-scale development, commercial-to-residential conversions and changes of use between different types of commercial and retail premises, the committee made a series of recommendations:

  • pause any further extensions of permitted development for change of use to residential, including the new class MA right (commercial, business and service uses to dwellinghouses), which is due to take effect on 1 August;
  • conduct a review of the role of PDRs for change of use to residential within the wider planning system and explain how it aligns with plan-led development and local democratic involvement, two areas of emphasis in the government’s Planning for the future white paper; and
  • consider amending the prior approval process to require PDR housing to have outdoor private or communal amenity space, and to enable councils to require that PDR housing contributes overall to the delivery of the right mix of housing for their area. In particular, the report recommends that local authorities be able to prevent the siting of homes in inappropriate locations, such as business and industrial parks.

Clive Betts, chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “While we understand the intention behind the recent PDR changes, these extensions appear to contradict the increased focus on plan-led development and local democratic involvement, and fatally undermine the role of local authorities in shaping their communities, public spaces and buildings.

“The reality of the government’s recent changes to PDR is a regime which has become so complicated it is little different from the planning system yet without the benefit of local controls or democratic involvement.

“To begin to put this right, the government should pause any further extensions of permitted development rights for residential change of use and undertake a review of the role of such PDRs in the wider planning system, spelling out how this can be consistent with its proposed reforms as set out in last year’s planning white paper.

“It’s also crucial the PDR regime ensures local councils are able to protect certain areas from permitted development rights where they have legitimate concerns about the impact on town centres, high streets and commercial centres. The government should also look at ensuring how prior approval could be amended to accommodate requirements for buildings to have access to adequate natural light and amenity space, and to ensure that PDR contributes overall to  a mix of housing types that delivers to local needs.”

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