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New reforms to England’s planning system will make it easier to extend homes and build new ones, with property owners soon be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation. Builders will also no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.

The government has released the additional legislation under the General Permitted Development Order (2015) which will come into force from September 1, 2020. This means it will soon be possible, subject to specific criteria, to construct up to two additional storeys above the topmost residential storey on a purpose-built dwelling or block of flats. It will also be possible demolish certain buildings to construct new homes without the need for formal planning permission.

The types of buildings outlined for demolition are those that are vacant and are a purpose-built dwelling or detached block of flats or fall within the use class B1 of the 1987 Use Classes Order. Additionally, the existing building must have been in existence before December 31, 1989, cannot exceed 1,000 metres squared, cannot exceed 18 metres in height, be within article 2(3) land, form part of a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), form part of a Statutory Listed Building or its curtilage, form part of a safety hazard area or military explosives storage area and cannot be within three kilometres of an aerodrome.

Stephen Holloway, of Fisher German, said: “While both of these new permitted development rights are subject to a prior approval process by the Local Planning Authority, and other detailed design criteria, their use in the correct environment will potentially deliver substantial benefits to property owners and businesses as well as wider public and social benefits through the provision of much needed housing stock within sustainable locations.

The new permitted development rights could be especially attractive for development sites where viability is a restricting factor as they would allow for dwellings to be delivered without planning obligations, usually triggered through Local Development Frameworks and secured by Local Planning Authorities under Section 106 agreements. The use of permitted development rights in such a way represents a significant removal of planning bureaucracy and is aimed to help facilitate the government’s ‘build, build, build’ agenda which aims to rejuvenate areas most affected by declining industrial need and substandard accommodation, both within the residential and commercial context.

The government has supported these changes to legislation with a significant funding package aimed at building new homes across England, focused on affordable homes delivery, re-use of brownfield land and supporting smaller housing developers to access financial packages to facilitate development. This is a great step forward but is simply the start of the planning reforms the government wish to enact to help reinvent the English planning system. A further planning policy paper will be released this month detailing ‘a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society.”

The latest Government reforms also include changes to the Use Class Order, giving businesses more flexibility to respond to ever-shifting business and retail patterns. If you’re a business owner, find out more about these changes here.

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