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What changes have been announced?
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has announced new measures that will make it easier to turn underused office buildings into new homes, namely:
Why are the changes being made?
The government's key aims are to boost house-building, make the best use of existing buildings, including some that are underused and neglected, and protect the green belt.
What does this mean for developers?
Under the temporary right, developers who failed to complete any unfinished conversions and get them occupied by May 2016 would have been in breach of the conditions attached to it, leaving them at risk of enforcement. Developers will undoubtedly welcome the change in status of the PDR from temporary to permanent.
Obtaining "prior approval" for qualifying developments
Developers will still need to apply for "prior approval" from the LPA, to confirm that specified elements of any qualifying development are acceptable before work can proceed.
The process is essentially comprised of:
Nevertheless, the statutory requirements relating to prior approval are still much less prescriptive than those relating to planning applications.
What are the implications for LPAs?
Planning departments have to prioritise applications for prior approval, even though they do not receive a fee for them. This is because if the application is not considered within six weeks, it is deemed to have been approved.
Under the rules for the householder extension permitted development right, LPAs must notify neighbours of applications for prior approval. Where objections are made, LPAs must decide whether the impact on the amenity of all adjoining properties is acceptable.
There are areas in 17 LPAs in England that are currently exempt from the rights, mainly in London. These exemptions will remain in place until May 2019, providing time for the LPAs to consider making an Article 4 direction to remove the rights and require a planning application for any proposed change of use.
What are the potential disadvantages of the permanent rights?
The government was initially reluctant to extend the permitted developments rights .
In an explanatory note, it stated that the consultation revealed concern on the future availability of business premises, the impact on surrounding businesses and the quality of the new dwellings.
However, it appears that ultimately, the political drive to boost housing numbers outweighed these concerns.
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