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TCPA to campaign against permitted development

Words: Laura Edgar
Flats / iStock

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has launched a campaign for better basic national housing standards, labelling permitted development as one of the ‘biggest mistakes’ in postwar history.

The charity, in unveiling its Room to Breathe campaign at its annual conference last week (22 November), argued that the government has deregulated the planning system to the extent that commercial and office buildings can be converted into residential units without proper safeguards. Furthermore, councils cannot ask for section 106 or affordable housing contributions fromtis kind of development.

Around 100,000 units have been created through permitted development rights but the TCPA said many are in the wrong places and built to very poor standards.

Indeed, research published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that office-to-residential conversions under permitted development rules produce a higher number of poor-quality homes than applications that go through the full planning process.

Although examples of extremely high-quality housing conversions were found, RICS noted that there were developments where there was no amenity space, where design was of a low quality and locations were poor locations for residential amenity. The research found that local authorities lost £4.1 million because of reduced planning fees, and a further potential loss of £10.8 million. They also lost out on 1,667 affordable housing units.

A study by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) and the TCPA, also published this year (2018), describes permitted development as being “on such a scale as to be in effect a shadow planning system, with no opportunity to secure decent quality housing or contribution for education or even basic children’s play space”.

Further to this, the Raynsford Review, launched in the House of Lords last week (20 November), states that it “was the extent and outcomes of the expansion of permitted development which gave the clearest sense of the weakness of planning in upholding wider public interest outcomes”.

Although the TCPA conceded to The Planner that converting buildings to homes can be satisfactory if done properly, a spokesperson said that no one should be living without sufficient natural light, children should not have to play in unsuitable locations such as car parks and everyone should have access to green and place space close to home.

Despite the research pointing to issues with permitted development, the government plans to extend permitted development rights to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and rebuilt as housing, and to allow some properties to be extended upwards.

The Room to Breathe campaign aims to:

  • bring together existing evidence across the sector on the outcomes of policy
  • gather more detailed evidence including case studies from councils across the country
  • create a coalition of people and organisations to stop the extension of permitted development
  • campaig for much tougher national design rules for housing.

Hugh Ellis, interim chief executive at the TCPA, said: “Permitted development is one of the biggest housing mistakes in postwar history and the legacy will blight a whole generation of people who are condemned to live in tiny, cramped conditions without any basic care for their health and wellbeing. This policy must be stopped before we deliver 21st century slums.”

Tom Kenny, policy officer at the RTPI said the institute agrees that permitted development is a “major threat” to the quality of housing.

“The use of permitted development as a means of simplifying procedures has been in place for 70 years, but its increased use as a way of pursuing government policy has produced very mixed results," he told The Planner.

“Permitted development challenges the ability of local planning authorities to deliver quality housing. It removes accountability and planning authorities cannot secure fees or affordable housing contributions from these developments.

“We agree that national standards are an important way to deliver quality. Comprehensive housing standards would set a minimum standard of quality in new housing and remove the need for local planning authorities to secure them through local plan reviews”

Read more:

News report: Permitted development rights – all loss and no gain?

Research: Office-to-residential permitted development is producing poor-quality housing

Planning in England lacks accountability

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