Permitted Development rights: Should they include flats and maisonettes?
Although it’s only currently house owners who benefit from permitted Development rights, maybe they should flats and masionettes as well?
Currently, it’s only owners of houses that benefit from Permitted Development rights. Under this scheme, house owners can make certain changes to their property—for example converting their loft by up to 50m2 in a detached house, or by 40m2 within any other home—without the need for planning permission. The scheme also allows owners of houses to build extensions without planning permission, although, again, size restrictions do apply. For example, a rear extension needs to take up less than 50% of the land around the original house when it was built (unless it was built before 1948, in which case it’s as it was on July 1, 1948).
"Currently, it’s only owners of houses that benefit from Permitted Development rights"
The rights don’t extend to listed buildings and in some conservation areas. This, in most cases, is sensible. But, more inexplicably, flats and maisonettes do not fall within the Permitted Development rights, meaning owners of such properties still need to obtain planning permission for changes that they want to make to their property.
One rule for one, one rule for another
The exclusion of flats and maisonettes has often resulted in perplexing planning decisions. For example, where some houses in a street have been converted into flats, the owners of the houses have been able to develop their loft space, yet the top floor flat owners have been refused planning permission to do exactly the same.
Moreover, the cost of applying for planning permission is often prohibitive, especially if it has to go to appeal. The current laws seem to favour those with the most money—in other words, those fortunate enough to already own a house. This is hardly fair!
Boost to the economy and to families
Expanding Permitted Development rights would provide a welcome boost to the economy. Currently, construction contributes 7% of GDP in the UK, but that is likely to fall if interest rates remain high. Big developers are already scaling back their plans, and putting some projects on hold. Expanding Permitted Development rights could help plug the gap.
"Expanding Permitted Development rights would provide a welcome boost to the economy"
It could also help alleviate the current housing crisis. Every extra bedroom counts. For many people, being able to add one or more rooms could mean the difference between having to move and being able to stay put, especially those wanting to start a family.
Checks and balances
There are potential downsides of course. It’s not hard to imagine a ground floor flat owner being worried about being overlooked by a proposed loft conversion for the flat above. These issues are more than surmountable though. Carefully crafted legislation and sensible implementation by local councils could help minimise disputes.
"Carefully crafted legislation and sensible implementation by local councils could help minimise disputes"
In some respects the mechanism already exists: “prior approval”, which is best described as “light-touch” planning permission (less costly and less time consuming), could be a requirement for flat and maisonette owners.
These developments would also need building control sign off to ensure the quality of the work is satisfactory.
As I mentioned before, this is about fairness. So, if you are concerned about the current restrictions, please write to your MP. That’s what I’ll be doing!
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