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What is Permitted Development?

‘Permitted Development’ is a nationally conferred right under the provisions of central government legislation and regulations. Permitted development covers a wide array of projects – from domestic household extensions to changes of use. This article relates to England only.

But to not fall into the trap of thinking it is necessarily ‘permitted’ and you can happily skip off into the sunset and undertake all types of construction works with no recourse to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) or council – in this case it does not do what is says on the tin. In my view any development tagged as ‘permitted development’ should be treated with extreme caution – it might look like a sheep – but there is a fierce wolf lying in wait underneath.

As well as radical changes to the Use Classes Order the most recent planning reforms introduced over the last two years have included:

  • Upward extensions on blocks of flats (to create dwellinghouses/flats)
  • Rights to demolish and rebuild blocks of flats and offices to create flats or one house
  • One and two storey extensions (to create dwellinghouses/flats) above detached and terraced mixed-use buildings and dwellinghouses
  • The enlargement of a domestic dwellings by the addition of up to two extra storeys

There are other ‘permitted development’ rights which have been retained, some that have been altered and some that have expired altogether.

Each one of these ‘permitted development’ proposals require the submission to the council of an application for that council’s Prior Approval – before commencing work – so they are not truly permitted at all, in my view it is a highly misleading term.

Developers should not be lulled in the false sense of security that these types of application are a ‘rubber stamp’ job and will automatically be granted. That may have been the case in the past, but the requirements for information to accompany such applications have been heavily increased and extended such that these Prior Approval applications are virtually detailed planning applications by any other name. The prior approval of the council can be refused and can have conditions attached to any permission.

The expanded requirements for Prior Approval applications have emerged for a number of reasons. The first being the excessively small flats being proposed in converted buildings. Also, because there was initially no need to submit detailed layout or elevation drawings some conversions resulted in habitable rooms with no windows aka cave dwelling! It was further found in a 2018 report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) RICS 2018 the conversions were resulting in a poor quality of living environment for occupants.

The criteria for a Prior Approval application must now include (amongst other matters) drawings showing the size of each self-contained unit which must comply with the Nationally Described Space Standards 2016 NDSS 2016 and the location and size of windows and habitable rooms to prove adequate levels of natural daylight.

Each different Class of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order as amended, has very specific requirements and each one must be read as it relates to the particular proposal.

If the basic criteria are not met the application will either be returned by the council or refused. For example, in Class MA – the conversion of Class E Commercial, Business & Service uses to dwellinghouses there a maximum size limit of 1,500 square metres of floor space changing use. In Class A (Part 20) where the proposal is to add two storeys on an existing office building that building will not comply if it is less than three storeys.

It is also worth noting that the council’s fees for Prior Approval applications have increased massively – where previously a fee of £96 was charged for any number of flats. The fees are now more complicated for each Class, but for a Class MA application developers should expect to pay £100 per flat/dwellinghouse. Fees 2018

So, the nature of permitted development rights and Prior Approval applications has changed significantly and has become more complicated over the last two years.

One benefit of the Prior Approval procedure remains (for now) and that is that proposals are not currently liable for contributions (on-site or financial) under a Section 106 agreement.


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This article was written by Linda Wright – a Planning Strategist, Educator, Writer, Keynote Speaker and owner of PLANiTWRiGHT – independent Planning Consultancy and Development Service.

If you have any queries relating to the issues above and a specific project, contact Linda at PLANiTWRiGHT by emailing admin@planitwright.co.uk.

If you have any burning planning issues that you would like covered in future articles either email Linda or contact Cowgills.

Permitted development

The information was correct at time of publishing but may now be out of date.

Posted by Cowgills
8th August, 2022
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