Assessing the case for removing light industrial to residential permitted development rights
The temporary permitted development right (PDR) for change of use from Use Class B1(c) light industrial to C3 residential came into force on 1 October 2017. This means that light industrial premises which have a floor area of less than 500 sqm can now be converted to residential use under the prior approval process, rather than requiring an application for planning permission. The temporary PDR is in force until 1 October 2020 (though any changes of use permitted during this period are permanent). The process is subject to various limitations and conditions, which are covered in an earlier blog by my colleague Owain Nedin.
The new PDR represents another of the Government’s wide-ranging measures aimed at boosting housing supply across the country. However, the PDR raises some potential issues for the future economic vitality of local areas that local planning authorities may need to consider. These include:
permanent loss of business space, particularly of smaller industrial and workshop premises which can play an important role in the local economy;
limiting the ability of local areas to plan effectively for business needs, employment and growth; and
creating potential uncertainty for businesses and reduced scope for land use planning and place making for the local planning authority.
Local planning authorities have the ability to remove PDRs by introducing what is known as an ‘Article 4 Direction’. This allows authorities to require change of use applications, meaning they can refer to the development plan and weigh material considerations into the balance in the process of making a decision. An Article 4 Direction requires a clear justification and a defined boundary for the proposed exemption area. Local authorities must therefore compile the necessary evidence to meet these requirements.
There are two main types of Article 4 Direction: immediate and non-immediate. An immediate Direction removes a PDR with immediate effect, but must be confirmed by the local planning authority following local consultation within six months, or else the Direction will lapse. A non-immediate Direction comes into force after a period of 12 months and the PDR is removed upon confirmation of the Direction by the local planning authority following local consultation.
Lichfields has developed a staged analytical framework to support local authorities in making a robust case for implementing a non-immediate Article 4 Direction. The framework draws on a range of economic data sources, local commercial property market signals and the existing planning policy position. It enables local authorities to scope, evidence and prepare the case for an Article 4 Direction, by identifying and quantifying light industrial stock that qualifies for the PDR and the wider significance of this space within a local area in terms of business activity and economic value. In turn, this can allow an appropriate exemption area to be defined and taken forward through the due process as the basis for making a Direction.
Lichfields recently prepared such an analysis (also including offices which are subject to similar PDRs) for the town of Newhaven on behalf of Lewes District Council. Newhaven was one of 18 locations that were awarded Enterprise Zone status in 2015. As part of the analysis, Lichfields quantified the number of eligible light industrial premises in the town and the proportion that fall within the Enterprise Zone area.
Light industrial floorspace clustering example output.
The analysis shows that Newhaven is an important location for light industrial activities in Lewes District, containing around a quarter of the local authority’s total stock of light industrial space. Furthermore, the vast majority of light industrial premises that are eligible for the PDR are within the Enterprise Zone, which has been designed to help stimulate the growth of the local economy.
The quantitative analysis was coupled with site assessments to identify the function of different employment clusters in the town. The analysis concluded that the Enterprise Zone supports considerable light industrial activity, which is likely to develop further given that priority sectors for the Enterprise Zone include environmental technologies and healthcare and biologics.
Lewes District Council’s Planning Applications Committee reviewed Lichfields’ analysis and found that it provided “clear evidence to support the implementation of Article 4 directions in Newhaven to protect office and light industrial use”. The Committee resolved to approve the Directions in October 2017 and these are likely to come into force later this year. They will serve to protect employment floorspace in Newhaven, thereby supporting the expansion of innovative, high value growth sectors in the Enterprise Zone.
The new PDR has potential implications for industrial locations across the UK. The recently published Draft London Plan encourages London Boroughs to introduce Article 4 Directions where appropriate to ensure they can retain sufficient industrial and logistics capacity. As identified in Lichfields’ London Plan Insight, the vast majority of Boroughs are expected to retain or increase their existing industrial capacity. The implementation of Article 4 Directions will be vital to support the economic function of industrial clusters across the capital to help meet the ambitious targets for economic growth set out in the London Plan.
Lichfields’ Article 4 Direction framework brings together robust analysis of local property markets and economic indicators which can help local authorities identify and prepare the case for making a Direction. For further information, please see our information flyer or get in touch.
A fundamental role of planning is to provide land of the right type in the right location to balance the need for new development with the interests of local communities and the wider public. The key challenge though is to recognise current and emerging growth opportunities and ensure that local plans are sufficiently flexible to be able to accommodate the full spectrum of opportunities, from small scale extensions and change of use through to identifying strategic sites capable of accommodating inward investment from external sources.The recent chain of events triggered by the UK’s decision to leave the EU has placed a renewed focus on how localities position themselves for economic growth and ensuring that the various planning systems across the UK are ‘fit-for-purpose’ to secure future prosperity.Inward investment represents just one source of growth and development, yet it remains one of the more challenging to quantify and plan for, given its ‘footloose’ nature. The extent to which local areas can actively plan for – and successfully capture – inward investment can also vary considerably across the country.To explore how planning for inward investment works in local areas and how local partners can be more pro-active in securing these opportunities, NLP recently carried out a survey of local planning authorities (LPAs) and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) across England. The key messages are presented in our new research report Invest to Grow and are summarised below:
Growth begins at home: 88% of LPA and 100% of LEP respondents thought working with existing businesses and investors was a particularly effective way of supporting and encouraging inward investment in a local area, underlining the valuable role that domestic investors play in expanding their existing presence within the UK.
‘Oven-ready’ sites are crucial: The most significant barrier to attracting and securing inward investment comes from the various factors that hold up development, such as infrastructure costs required to make sites ‘oven ready’ for development - this was cited as a significant barrier by 83% of LPAs and 100% of LEPs. Planning can have a role to play in shaping the strategy and funding mechanisms required to help overcome these barriers and unlock development opportunities ready for investment.
Clarity on inward investment strategies: Global competition for inward investment can be fierce and within the UK a handful of sectors are repeatedly being targeted by local areas, for example through the designation of Enterprise Zones and through allocated City Deal funding (see Figure below). This makes it increasingly important for local areas to develop their strategies around their indigenous sector strengths, clusters and ‘USPs’.
Work together: A 4.good level of awareness exists amongst LPAs and LEPs of the strategy for inward investment in their area and supporting local growth, but a third of LEPs and 60% of LPAs thought there was room for more collaboration between their respective organisations on planning for inward investment. This suggests there is significant scope for more effective, joined-up working between partners.
Drawing on best practice examples, we have identified a series of critical success factors that local partners could use to shape appropriate planning policy responses to inward investment opportunities in their area. This distils the opportunity into three broad typologies (described below) and provides a useful way of thinking about how the planning system can more pro-actively target and help capture inward investment within the overall ambit of planning for growth.‘Grow your own’ – the first typology - refers to companies that already have a UK base and have scope to expand their operations either in the same location and/or elsewhere across the country. Responding to this opportunity is all about taking the time to understand and nurture an existing business base, ensuring they have the support they need to become more embedded within a local economy and being responsive to expansion and development plans to ensure that their growth can be accommodated.
Source: NLP Analysis
‘Catch and steer’ – the second typology - describes firms that have already decided to bring their investment to the UK or a particular region and are exploring their location, site and premises options. Planning has a role to play here in establishing a clear and competitive sector offer, by providing planning certainty that key sites are available and deliverable, and contributing to making the economic case for public funding to unlock development opportunities.
Source: NLP Analysis
‘Footloose and free’ - the final typology - relates to firms that are not tied to any particular location or country but operate within a global marketplace. This arguably represents the most difficult opportunity to plan for, so maintaining a flexible and responsive planning system that anticipates (rather than accurately predicts) where opportunities might derive from is key, alongside promoting a positive message to the global marketplace that a local area is ‘open for business’. This will help an area to respond effectively if, or as and when the time comes.
Source: NLP Analysis
Our research shows that planning for inward investment inevitably looks different in different places, but with the EU Referendum result already impacting on business decisions to invest and trade with the UK, it also indicates that the ability of local areas to make themselves attractive to inward investment - and the opportunities that this can bring - is now more important than ever.Download a copy of Invest to Grow here.