We called for Muscular Action on housing delivery several years ago. The new permitted development right for two-storey apartment extensions look like a mixed bag.
The Government dropped the 2016 combined effort by the London Mayor and Secretary of State to promote PD rights for London upward extensions in its response to consultation alongside the 2016 Housing White Paper. NPPF Paragraph 118(e) was created in its stead.
Building up clearly offers scope for incremental gains against a backdrop of ongoing struggles over the realism of the New London Plan. Rooftop modular is also receiving serious consideration as a more substantial source of supply.
Height and human scale have become a real challenge for densification where it involves buildings over 6 storeys (say 20 metres). The qualifying thresholds and the criteria for Prior Approval under the new PD rights suggest that these struggles will continue.
The new rights only apply:
- To detached, purpose-built apartment buildings built between dates in 1948 and 2018 which are 3 storeys or more above ground level
- If all the new homes are flats
- Where the ultimate building height is under 30m (and the increase is no more than 7 metres)
- To buildings that are not in a conservation area/ AONB, National Park and are not a listed building.
A Few Hoops
Prior Approval is required on various grounds, including subjective design grounds which are entirely fair but equally opaque, including :
- ‘adequate’ retained light for neighbours – the benchmarks for which are notoriously unclear in inner urban areas
- wider general amenity
- The criteria for Prior Approval under the new PD rights suggest that these struggles will continue.
The rights will also rule out future amalgamation of units without express planning permission to do so.
As Will Lingard has pointed out, there is no carrot for authorities on affordable housing.
In some cases – within the already limited pool of buildings/ schemes that qualify – the effects and objections will be minimal and schemes will get through. A significant amount of supporting information will still be needed, albeit with potentially a lower fee for the authority to pay for reviewing it all.
The PD rights do offer an easier way through where schemes affect the setting of a conservation area / listed building (i.e. at one remove) – this would not on the face of it be a ground for ‘Prior Refusal’ no matter how significant the effects unless they tip the proposals into the EIA regime (in which case Article 3(10) GDPO 2015 will block the use of the PD rights.
In many cases, the new rights will simply give a marginally quicker, cheaper and cleaner route to appeal.
One factor worth bearing in mind, is that where mundane effects justify a Prior Approval the new homes will be placed in the pot that supports a higher EUV/ AUV for the site and used to reduce the amount of affordable housing that is viable on a full scale redevelopment.