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Select committee calls on Government to pause any further extensions of permitted development rights pending review

The Government should pause any further extensions of permitted development rights (PDRs) for change of use to residential and conduct a review of the role of such PDRs in the wider planning system, MPs have said.

A report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Permitted Development Rights, has highlighted concern that “some homes built under PDR policy are of poor quality and that recent changes to PDR could undermine attempts to revitalise the high street and the ability of local authorities to plan development and shape communities”.

The Committee also said the prior approval process for residential PDRs might have become so complicated it was now “little different from the full planning process”.

The report’s recommendations include that the Government should:

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  • pause any further extensions of permitted development for change of use to residential, including the new class MA right, 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 be able to protect certain areas from permitted developments 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.”

Responding to the report, Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said: “Councils will continue to play a key role in helping the nation to build back locally as we recover from the pandemic, and that includes meeting our joint ambition with government to tackle our housing shortage and build the homes and places we desperately need.

“The Committee shares our concerns over the quality of homes built under permitted development rights and the adverse impact this could have on our high streets, which councils want to see prosper and thrive, with a vibrant range of uses, including retail, culture, sport and leisure. This is why we would like to see the permitted development right removed.

“Building the homes the country needs should be delivered through a locally-led planning system, and in the right places supported by the right infrastructure. Only this ensures a mix of high-quality, affordable housing that meets the needs of local communities, while also giving those communities the opportunity to shape and define the area they live in.”

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