Planning matters

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Designs on Grand Designs – how realistic is self-build for boosting housing supply?
For many people, the constraints or design of their homes will at some point have led them to think that they might have done a better job if they had designed and built their homes themselves from scratch. As set out in the Housing White Paper, the government is looking to tap into this mind-set as a way of diversifying housing delivery streams and helping boost supply. But how much of an impact will this method of housing delivery have in the context of a national housing shortage, especially when the Housing White Paper itself states that the ‘broken housing market’ is particularly affecting ordinary working people who are struggling to get by? Access to available land and securing finance to fund the construction of a new home are two of the main barriers fledgling self-builders face. Since April 2016, local authorities in England have been required to maintain a list of people and groups interested in building their own home in their area under the ‘Right to Build’ provisions of the Self and Custom Build Housing Act 2015 (as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016). Some local authorities are now seeking to introduce self-build policies into their Local Plans as a way of enabling the delivery of more self-build homes. The Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) states that relevant authorities should consider how they can best support self-build and custom housebuilding in their area, including developing policies in their Local Plan for self-build and custom housebuilding (Paragraph: 025 Reference ID: 57-025-201760728). Harrogate Borough Council recently consulted on a draft self-build policy which proposed that, on sites of 20 dwellings or more, developers will be required to supply at least 5% of dwelling plots for sale to self-builders, subject to ‘appropriate demand’ being identified. The Council is proposing to consult on this draft policy again in January 2018 (it may be in a revised form by then), but whether it has been amended in response to consultation or not, will it really result in a step change in housing delivery? A letter sent out to stakeholders in June 2017 stated that there were 164 individuals listed on the Harrogate Borough Council Self Build Register who had expressed an interest in self-build. Applying the policy to the draft allocations set out within the emerging Harrogate Local Plan, the terms of the policy as currently drafted would result in the delivery of just under 250 dwellings. The draft policy does allow for some flexibility based on ‘appropriate demand’ being identified and self-build plots being sold within 12 months, but this type of policy is only dealing with one side of the coin – diversifying supply. The policy may not actually result in a boost to supply in terms of totals, as the number of homes which will have been delivered on the site is likely to remain the same. There are a number of potential pitfalls with policies which require minimum proportions of development sites to be reserved for self-build plots, despite their positive intentions: How can it be credibly confirmed whether there is viable demand? Do all 164 people in Harrogate actually want to go ahead with a self-build? When could (and should) self-build plots form part of on-site affordable housing provision? Will planning applications take longer to determine while developers and local authorities decide whether there is a need for reserved self-build plots on a particular site? Such policies could potentially lead to a reduction in overall housing delivery, or at least the rate of delivery (albeit this is likely to have a limited effect), and at a time of a national housing shortage this could go against the main thrust of the National Planning Policy Framework and Housing White Paper. The most appropriate method of facilitating and boosting the delivery of self-build homes is of course not only being grappled with in Harrogate, but is being explored by local authorities across Yorkshire and the rest of the country. The National Custom and Self Build Association’s (NaCSBA) portal for Right to Build states that there are 118 people registered on the Leeds database, out of a population of 774,100. Teignbridge has adopted a ‘Custom and Self Build Supplementary Planning Document’ which contains a 5% requirement on sites of 20 dwellings or more. According to research by the Planning Advisory Service, Teignbridge has around 280 people on its register. Promoters of self-build cite a number of studies and opinion polls which can suggest there is a considerable demand for self-build (the NaCSBA argues that 53% of the UK population would like to build or commission their own home at some time in their lives) and if these figures were realised, it could make a significant contribution towards housing delivery. There is a potential danger, however, that some people who express an interest in self-build may not ever - for a whole host of reasons - take this forward and deliver their own home. There is a very big difference between being interested in self-build, and actually having the means, be this for financial reasons, lack of knowledge/skills, or the time and commitment to deliver what could be a very demanding project to implement. It is also possible for people to sign up to more than one register, which can further skew the figures. What is clear, however, is that England and the UK lag behind the rest of Europe in the proportion of new homes which are self-built. A recent report by AMA Research found that self build completions in the UK have declined in recent years, and the UK continues to have one of the lowest rates of self building - around 10% of new private sector house-building, compared to countries such as Austria, Belgium, Italy and Sweden where self build rates are between 67-83%[1]. As previous Lichfields blogs[2] have discussed, the UK Government could take inspiration from the Netherlands, where whole new settlements are created comprised entirely of self-build homes. These are often delivered in partnership by city councils and housing associations on publicly owned land. Indeed, this model being implemented at Graven Hill in Bicester, which will be the largest self and custom build development in the UK, and has come about through Cherwell District Council’s acquisition of a former Ministry of Defence site. The development will deliver around 1,900 self and custom build homes. Aiming to increase the amount of self-build homes in the UK is certainly something which should be encouraged, both to diversify the supply chain and improve design, but policies which target the volume housebuilder sector may need to be approached with caution. The national housing shortage is real and acute, and volume housebuilders have the capability to deliver homes quickly and at a large scale. The amount of self-build plots which can be delivered on private developer-led sites is always going to be relatively small, and it will therefore be important for local authorities to look for other opportunities to bring self-build to more people, as well as those looking to create the next Grand Design.   [1] https://www.amaresearch.co.uk/products/self-build-2016 [2] http://lichfields.uk/blog/2016/october/31/almere-a-dutch-example-for-self-building-in-the-uk/ and http://lichfields.uk/blog/2016/february/17/is-the-romantic-dream-of-self-build-dead-or-alive/ Image credit: Dan-Wood  

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Lichfields’ Guide to the Use Classes Order and permitted development rights: up to date (with more changes still to come)
Lichfields' Guide to the Use Classes Order UPDATE 01 October 2017: Class PA, change of use from light industrial to residential is (for the moment at least) a temporary permitted development right (Part 3, Schedule 2), subject to various limitations and conditions, which requires an application for a determination as to whether or not the prior approval of the local planning authority is required.  Such applications may now be submitted to local planning authorities.  Applications for prior approval relating to Class PA permitted development must be determined by (or expired without determination by) 30 September 2020. See below for more details, or read this blog which discusses the new permitted development right. UPDATE 16 March 2017:  Further amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 will come into force on 6 April.  This follows the Government consulting on permitted development rights for schools in its February 2016 ‘Implementation of planning changes: technical consultation’.  In its response to that consultation, issued on 7 February as part of the ‘Housing White Paper Collection’, the Government advised that there was general support for extending permitted development rights for schools, and that ‘We are bringing forward a package of new and extended permitted development rights as consulted’. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2017 will: Amend Part 4 Class C “use as a state-funded school for a single academic year” to grant temporary planning permission for two years instead of one year Provide new Class CA in Part 4, which introduces a new permitted development right to provide a temporary state-funded school for up to three academic years on a site which was previously used for specified commercial purposes but on which all buildings have been demolished, subject to prior approval.  Amongst other conditions, exemptions and limitations, the new buildings must not cover more than 50% of the total area of the site, and must not exceed 2,500sqm in floorspace, or a height of 7 metres.  The land must have been used for a purpose falling within Class B1 (business), Class C1 (hotels), Class C2 (residential institutions), Class C2A (secure residential institutions) or ClassD2 (assembly and leisure) or as a school, within the ten years preceding the date of submission of the necessary prior approval application to construct a temporary school.  Before beginning the development, the developer must apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the local planning authority will be required as to— (i) transport and highways impacts of the development, (ii) noise impacts of the development, (iii) contamination risks of the site, (iv) flooding risks on the site, and (v) the siting and design of the development The 2017 Order also makes amendments relating to permitted development rights for alterations to dwellinghouses (Part 1 Class A), and schools (Part 7 Class M). Consequently, the Lichfields’ Guide to the use Classes Order will be updated after 6 April 2017   We have updated our popular ‘Guide to the Use Classes Order’, which sets out the use classes defined in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended), and provides an indication of potential permitted development rights that a whole variety of uses, including some sui generis uses, might benefit from.   The Guide includes hyperlinks to the relevant classes of permitted development for change of use in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2016.    It is essential that those trying to understand whether or not permitted development rights for change of use exist for a building and/or land review the relevant legislation in order to understand the conditions attached and the limitations imposed (e.g. floorspace maxima). It is also necessary to understand the restrictions imposed, and implications of the Orders’ Articles that are relevant to the proposal. Understanding the details of any requirements for any application for determination as to whether the prior approval of the local planning authority is also essential.    Some classes of permitted development rights for change of use also include permitted development rights for limited building operations, the details of which are not included in the Lichfields guide.  Therefore, a review of the legislation detailed above is also necessary, to understand whether these permitted development rights exist, as well as their limitations and conditions, and prior approval requirements.   There are several more amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) and it would be potentially confusing to include them all in the Guide.  For information, a link to each of the amendments is at the end of this blog.   Future changes to change of use permitted development rights Two permitted development rights’ changes are to come into force in the next year or so:   Light industrial to residential – new temporary PDR   New Class PA (Part 3, Schedule 2) requires an application for a determination as to whether or not the prior approval of the local planning authority is required, and this may not be submitted prior to 1 October 2017, and must be determined by 30 September 2020.  Note that the PDR applies only to buildings in use ‘solely for a light industrial use on 19th March 2014 or, in the case of a building which was in use before that date but was not in use on that date, when it was last in use’.  There are several other conditions and limitations; please see the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2016.   Storage to dwellinghouse – temporary PDR to fall away   To benefit from this Class P (Part 3, Schedule 2) permitted development right, the use of the building as Class C3 must be begun by 15th April 2018. There is no indication at present as to whether this PDR is to be extended.   And the Government has announced... Permitted development rights for state funded schools   In its response to DCLG’s Technical consultation on implementation of planning changes, the Government announced that new and extended permitted development rights for state-funded schools, which reflect those consulted on, are to be introduced.                                   And now the Government is consulting on... Changes to agriculture to residential   According to DCLG, more than 500 responses were received to the Rural Planning Review: Call for Evidence.  The evidence submitted covered a wide range of matters, including farm shops, polytunnels, reservoirs and equestrian uses.  As a follow-up, the Government is currently consulting on how and whether to amend Part 6, Class A of the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 (as amended) (agricultural development in units of 5 hectares or more).  There were a variety of differing responses regarding rural housing, housing for agricultural workers, and the permitted development right for change of use to residential.  The Government is also consulting on a new agricultural to residential permitted development right for conversions of up to 750sqm, for a maximum of 5 dwellings, each of no more than 150sqm.  There is a further consultation on changing the Schedule 2, Part 3, Class Q PDR threshold from 450sqm to 465sqm, to reflect Part 6 Class A and B thresholds.  The consultation questions are within the response document (pp.40-41), and it appears that the consultation deadline is 2 May (unfortunately it is not clear).   Are there any anticipated or potential future new or amended change of use permitted development rights? The Housing White Paper consultation asks what potential there is to deliver additional homes through more intensive use of existing public sector sites, or in urban locations more generally, and whether permitted development rights are one way this could be supported.  This is despite the most used change of use PDR, office to residential, proving controversial in the areas where it has been most successful.  The debates on the Neighbourhood Planning Bill have provided recent insight into the Government’s intentions in this regard.   Change of use from office to residential   The office to residential permitted development right was made permanent last April, and the Housing White Paper notes that more than 13,800 homes were added to the stock through permitted development rights enabling change of use to residential in 2015/16, according to Government’s statistics.   The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has seen a significant proportion of all office to residential prior approval applications.  On 28 February 2017, its Conservative leader, Lord True, proposed a lengthy amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill which would essentially legislate that a local planning authority may refuse prior approval if it has passed a resolution that the right should no longer apply in its area.  The resolution would have to follow the publication of a report demonstrating that the local economy is being damaged, and/or operational businesses expelled, and could only be made where LPAs had met their housing target in the previous year and were likely to meet them in the following year (subject to possible Secretary of State interventions).   The amendment was withdrawn, but only following Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth responding for the Government, expressing an interest in exploring an approach for ‘areas that are meeting their housing requirements to have greater say over where the right would apply, as long as they can demonstrate that removal of the right is necessary, without adding new procedures or complexity to the statute’.  Lord Bourne said that the housing delivery test proposed in the Housing White Paper could make such a procedure workable.  Therefore it is not out of the question that such a proposal could re-emerge in a new guise.   Change of use from office to residential –demolition and rebuild   A proposed permitted development right to demolish an office and replace it with a new residential building has seemingly ‘gone quiet’.  It was not mentioned in the White Paper and the Government did not respond to Lord True’s comment in the above debate:   ‘I also hope the Government will think again about extending the proposals—certainly in areas such as mine, which are already badly affected—to allow demolition and replacement without planning permission. Instead of going in the direction of amelioration, this is going in the wrong direction’.    However, we are given to understand from DCLG that the new right will come into force this summer.   Change of use from drinking establishment to other uses   A non-government proposed amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, to make drinking establishments sui generis and remove any permitted development rights, prompted a long Report Stage debate in the House of Lords on 28 February regarding change of use from drinking establishments to other uses.   Despite Lord Bourne, promising to undertake “an open and transparent review of the current arrangements in respect of assets of community value and the planning regime for pubs, including looking at permitted development rights”, which “would start no later than straight after the local elections, with a clear commitment to report within six months—that is, to come back in the autumn with a view to taking action on whatever the review throws up” a Division was called, and the amendment agreed to.   Whilst the new clause may disappear from the face of the Bill, Lord Bourne’s commitment to “put on the face of the Bill that we will have a statutory review within the timescale I have indicated” may feature in due course.   Direction of travel There is no indication that the Government’s desire to expand permitted development rights is waning.  So whilst recent and some proposed amendments to the permitted development ‘rules’ are starting to make the prior approval process look like...a planning application, it appears that ‘tightening’ permitted development rights for certain changes of use is more attractive to the government that removing them. Lichfields’ analysis of the Housing White Paper   Links Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987/764Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) Order 1991/1567Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) Order 1992/610Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 1992/657Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) Order 1994/724Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) Order 1995/297Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2005/84Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2006/220Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010/653Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2015/597Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015(pdf version)Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2016(pdf version)  

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