Permitted development: Supporting new development with limited community consultation

Surprisingly, if you were to attend most planning committees and mention the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015, you’d likely receive blank looks from committee members.

The order introduces a whole new range of permitted development rights which many councillors and communities are unaware of, relating to the high street, household extensions and agricultural buildings.

In terms of the high street, the order provides a number of opportunities for retail uses to be converted to financial and professional services or restaurants and café uses, without requiring planning permission.

Applicants seeking to convert retail uses, submit a permitted development application to the local authority, who then determine whether the application complies with its local development framework. The authority can either decide that it has no objection to the permitted development, or must outline its objections to the applicant and explain reasons why a full planning application is required. If the authority fails to respond to the initial application within 42 days, then permission via permitted development is automatically granted.

Importantly, there is no automatic right for neighbours to be consulted on the permitted development application or for local community groups to even be aware that such an application has been submitted. So although the order may help to regenerate high streets, it may generate criticism as local communities are not involved in the development of their high streets.

In relation to household extensions, the 2015 order extends the permitted development right introduced in 2013 until 2019. This allows single storey rear extensions to be granted that do not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than 6 metres if the house is attached, or 8 metres if the house is detached.

In these cases, adjoining owners/occupiers must be informed of the proposal by the local authority and given 21-days to respond. If objections are raised, the authority must make a decision as to whether the impact of the extension on the amenity of adjoining occupiers is acceptable. If no objections are received, the development may go ahead as the authority is not required to consider the impact on neighbour amenity.

In relation to agricultural buildings, the permitted development rights order is likely to lead to a number of new uses for redundant buildings, including those in the green belt.

The permitted development rights allow such buildings to be converted to a wide range of uses, including shops, restaurants, business uses, hotels, gyms, leisure uses, schools, registered nurseries. Buildings with a maximum floor space of 450 m2 within a single established agricultural unit can be converted to up to three residential units.

It is likely that the rights outlined in the 2015 order will lead to more applications at committee where officers will advise councillors that an application would have been allowed under permitted development and thus advise that there are no grounds for refusal.

Importantly, in all circumstances, if no determination is made by the local authority within 42 days, developments are automatically approved to go ahead. This is likely to aggravate local communities and could lead to calls from local groups arguing that their right to determine development in their local communities is being diminished.