The Government has announced a new permitted development right to allow the demolition of certain detached buildings, and their replacement with new residential development without the need for an express grant of planning permission.
The headline points governing the new Part 20 Class ZA permitted development right are as follows (noting this is a summary only):
- the right only applies to single purpose build detached blocks of flats or any other single detached buildings used for offices, research and development or industrial Use Class B1 purposes;
- the building to be demolished must not have been constructed after 31 December 1989. It should have a footprint of less than 1000 sqm, and a height no greater than 18m (in practice that is likely to be up to 6 stories) at any point. It must have been vacant for at least 6 months;
- the new building must comprise a purpose built detached block of flats or a purpose built detached dwellinghouse;
- the new building must not exceed at any point the lower of 7m above the height of the old building or 18m. Conditions also control the number and height of the stories (as well as the roof plant) to be delivered in the new building;
- the developer must apply for the prior approval of the local planning authority on a range of impacts and design issues, including amongst other matters:
- the method of demolition;
- contamination and flood risk;
- transport and highways, local amenity, heritage, noise, and landscape impacts
- the effect on local businesses and new residents of an increase in or introduction of new or increased residential development in the area;
- design and external appearance including the provision of adequate light in all habitable rooms of any dwelling
The prior approval application must be accompanied by a suite of drawings and a formal written statement, as well as any detailed material which the developer considers necessary, and has ideally discussed with Officers, to satisfy the matters on which the local planning authority needs to be informed ahead of giving prior approval.
The prior approval process is governed by the standard determination and appeal processes provided in Schedule 2 to the General Permitted Development Order.
The conditionality placed on exercise of the new permitted development right begs the question whether it provides any meaningful benefit to the interested developer?
Clear positives comprise the following factors:
- Principle established. The right means that the principle of the redevelopment, and the acceptability of its key parameters is taken out the hands of the local planning authority. Officers are left looking at matters of detail rather than the principle of the development.
- Timescales and consultation. The timescales from submission of the prior approval application to any approval (up to 8 weeks) are also likely to be shorter than those which in practice would govern the determination of a standard full planning application. The government clearly promotes prior approval as a light-touch process which should not replicate the planning application system.
- Fees. The fee for a prior approval is lower than that for a full traditional planning application, and consultation requirements less onerous; and
- Costs. Crucially, overall development costs will likely be significantly lower than for similar development which took subject to a full planning application. Whilst the local planning authority might seek 106 obligations, they must be limited only to matters requiring prior approval. So there is a substantial saving to the developer from taking free of any Section 106 affordable housing requirement which would otherwise come hand-in-hand with a normal full planning permission approval.
However, the following points should be noted in any given case:
- No green flag. The permitted development right is heavily conditioned and certainly not a green flag to easily obtained demolition and redevelopment. The government is keen to avoid the mistakes it made after the credit crunch when it granted office to residential permitted development rights without providing for the prior approval by the local planning authority of a range of factors related to design quality and residential amenity. Any aspiring developer should undoubtedly expect to need to demonstrate the acceptability of the new building, and the quality of the residential development it provides.
- Check local designations. The new permitted right does not apply to detached buildings which take subject to listed building controls, or are located within certain designated areas e.g. conservation areas.
- What is given, can be taken away! Exercise of the right will be dependent on the local planning authority not restricting its use through an Article 4 Direction. Note Article 4 was heavily used to restrict the office to residential permitted development right in certain areas e.g. Manchester and Westminster, and some local authorities have already voiced concern around exercise of the new permitted development right, and what it means for the quality and tenure of new residential development.
The new right comes into force on 31st August 2020, and the government clearly hopes it will help increase new housing delivery and aid the regeneration of town centres as they move to becoming focused on a more mixed range of uses, including residential.
On balance the new permitted development right does appear to offer real and meaningful commercial benefit to developers, but in each case it will be important to check whether the target property can take the benefit of the new right, and to ensure the exacting prior approval requirements are met.