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Lee Ward examines the new legislation and consultations affecting planning policy


It would seem that Mr Gove and his department chose the day before Valentines to show the planning system a little love and being Pancake Day, one would assume he is hoping it all doesn’t fall flat.

February 13th saw a raft of new legislation and consultations published by the Cabinet Office which look to expand on what can be achieved under the Permitted Development Rights as well as some proposed strengthening of the legislation around Brownfield Developments.

Lee Ward, Director of Hayward Architects, looks at the new consultations and legislation and what it could mean for the construction industry.

First up there is the “Strengthening planning policy for brownfield development” Consultation which is looking to strengthen the case for Brownfield developments by, “Giving significant weight to the benefits of delivering homes on brownfield land.”

Given the same department removed the requirements on Local Authorities to prove their 5 year housing land supply just over a month ago in the now infamous pre-Christmas NPPF update this does feel a little like tinkering around the edges. By some estimates the NPPF change is going to lead to 77,000 less houses being approved each year in England.

Given that many developments within defined settlements and therefore sustainable locations will be on brownfield sites already it remains to be seen what, if any, impact this consultation would have. The government seem keen to distinguish between Brownfield and Greenbelt as well although these can often be one and the same when it comes to suitable development sites.

Hayward Architects would suggest engagement with a Planning Consultant where this type of development is proposed to advise on how this weighting will have an impact and contrast with the many other policies that are applicable.

The Brownfield Consultation is open until 26 March 2024.

The second Consultation of the day was around Permitted Development Rights for residential properties with the rather snappy title of “Changes to various permitted development rights: consultation."

The first section of this new consultation looks at extensions to existing dwellings. This is an area already well covered by Permitted Development but there have always been some idiosyncrasies in the guidance which this consultation is looking to potentially resolve. Common sense planning policy? It’ll never catch on.

The Governments suggestion is that the maximum depth of all rear extensions could be increased by 1m in each of the individual cases and possibly remove the requirement to be 7m from the rear boundary where the adjacent use is non-residential. This will be welcome in many cases but in my opinion could cause some clashes with neighbours where 4 and 5m extensions are up against a boundary, there will need to be considerations as to the right to light to habitable windows.

An idiosyncratic section of the Permitted Development Legislation has always been the allowance of side and rear extensions but not being allowed to join these together to create a “wrap around”. The consultation is looking to address this by allowing wrap around extensions on all homes although the limitations as to the size of these extensions is to be decided.

The consultation also suggests some tinkering with the roof alterations section of the Permitted Development Legislation and potentially allows for larger dormers and roof windows to be added while also reviewing the allowance to “extend upwards” although the later only seems to be a relaxation in relation to when the original dwelling was constructed.

Overall, some relaxation around house extensions should allow more flexibility although it does have the potential to cause more “neighbour wars” through ill thought-out extensions impacting on the neighbouring amenity. Is this a case of more hassle than its worth in terms of the benefits?

Hayward Architects have a long history of delivering extensions and alterations to all types of dwellings and can advise on all aspects of the Permitted Developments rights.

The real headline grabber in this consultation will be the allowance to demolish certain detached buildings and erect either a new build dwelling or a block of flats under Permitted Development. This is an allowance that has been around since 2020 but appears to be little utilised, possibly due to the unique set of circumstances that the guidance demands. A quick search of several of the Leicestershire Local Authorities showed up no results of Class ZA Applications.

Currently only buildings constructed before the 31st December 1989 are allowed to be demolished under Class ZA with the consultation proposing to remove this limit which should free up many newer buildings that could be replaced with much needed housing. However, there would be a new limit on the age of the building of 1930 to protect older Buildings.

Again, any widening of these quite narrow Permitted Development rights can, at least on the surface, only be a good thing for the delivery of housing in a time of shortage of housing in the UK but once again it feels like tinkering around the edges rather than real legislation that will look to deliver the numbers of houses that are needed to meet demand in the UK.

Further suggestions in the consultations around the simplifying of rules on EV Charging points and Air Source Heat pumps certainly fits well with the governments green agenda although again it feels like tinkering when wholesale changes particularly to support EV infrastructure if really needed.

This consultation will last for 8 weeks from 13 February 2024 to 9 April 2024.

And if you are still here, there was a piece of actual real Legislation change not just a consultation that was released on the 13th! This time in relation to Class MA which allows for offices and other similar buildings to be converted to dwellings. This has been a useful piece of legislation in recent years which has meant that many redundant buildings in and around town and city centres could be repurposed into much needed housing. The amendments to this legislation make 2 important changes. Firstly, the need to prove the building has been vacant for 3 months prior to the Class MA Application being made is being removed meaning that currently occupied buildings could now be subject to Class MA applications. The second change is a big one, the size limit of 1500m² on Class MA applications is being removed meaning that buildings of all shapes and sizes could now be converted to Residential under this simplified process.

Hayward Architects have experience of delivering Class MA approvals of varying sizes from 1 or 2 units upwards and can advise on how the new relaxed legislation could help your development.

This new legislation comes into force on the 5th March 2024.

Anyone would think it was an election year……

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