24 April 2019

Permitted development must be reviewed

The next Labour Government will scrap permitted development (PD) rights for converting office blocks into housing.

Citing research by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), stating that PD has resulted in small and extremely poor-quality housing, Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey explained that scrapping the policy “will give local people control over the housing that gets built in their area and ensure developers build the low-cost, high-quality homes that the country needs.”

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomes the renewed focus on PD because reform is required, especially on quality, suitability and affordability. However, we would challenge the Labour Party to understand how it could already deliver the changes it is seeking.

PD policy can already be withdrawn by local authorities through a policy called ‘Article 4’, which has been used by some Labour councils. For example, an exemption exists in many London boroughs and in Manchester.

Where Labour is correct is on the ‘get-out’ clause for affordable housing. The Local Government Association (LGA) reports that the rules around PD have resulted in local communities missing out on more than 10,000 homes since 2016. Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said:

“Permitted development on office to residential must be reviewed. Although it has its place, permitted development isn’t delivering enough affordable family homes and it should be doing more than simply increasing the number of individual housing units.”

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy for the House Builders Association (HBA), said:

“The issue lies in how local authorities interpret planning rules. Local policy can stop permitted development and make planning easier for local companies delivering more affordable housing and high-quality homes. However, councils make planning harder for smaller builders and embrace a development style that attracts investors rather than builders.”