Many economists and politicians are predicting the end of office working and high street retail following the dramatic shift to home working and online shopping this year. Fewer shops and offices may be required in the future as these changes herald permanent shifts in behaviour. New uses will need to be found for some of the existing retail and office stock that is now redundant; the Government has tried to facilitate and encourage such redevelopment by introducing new Permitted Development Rights (PDR) in August 2020.
What are Permitted Development Rights?
PDRs are the right to make changes to a building without making a formal planning application. The legislation that creates a PDR is, in effect, a national grant of planning permission for the specific development identified in the legislation.
The New Permitted Development Rights
Several new classes of PDRs were introduced in August 2020. This blog focuses on three classes of new PDRs (AA, AB and ZA) that facilitate the redevelopment of offices and shops for residential purposes.
Class AA – Building Additional Storeys (Freestanding Buildings)
The new class AA applies to freestanding buildings in the following use classes:
- A1 – retail;
- A2 – financial and professional services;
- A3 – restaurants and cafes;
- Betting shops, pay day loan shops and laundrettes;
- B1(a) – offices; or
- any of the above that are also part of a mixed use development with housing.
The PDR allows an additional two storeys to be built on top of an existing building of less than three storeys above ground level. The maximum height of the new building is 30 metres and the new dwelling houses may not be flats.
Class AB – Building Additional Storeys (Terraces)
The new class AB applies to buildings in a terrace in the same use as referred to above for PDR AA or any of those uses in a mixed use development with housing.
The right allows two storeys to be added to a two-storey building and one storey to be added to a one-storey building. The new building may not be more than 18 metres high and not more than 3.5 metres higher than the next highest building in the terrace.
Class ZA – Demolition and Construction
The new class ZA applies to:
- Vacant and redundant freestanding offices, R&D or light industrial premises or a combination of them; or
- a single purpose residential block of flats.
It only applies to buildings erected before 1 January 1990 and the building must be completely vacant for at least six months.
The PDR allows the old building to be demolished and a new residential building erected; both parts of the development must be completed, i.e. class ZA PDR does not authorise simply the demolition of an old building without further development or the development of a previously cleared site. The PDR allows for the development of a new building within the footprint of the old building, up to 1000 square metres and a maximum height of 18 metres or 7 metres above the height of the old building, whichever is lower.
Scope of the New Permitted Development Rights
None of the new PDRs apply within National Parks, conservation areas, AONB, SSSI or World Heritage Sites or where the building is listed or an ancient monument.
All of the rights require the developer to obtain prior approval from the Local Planning Authority who are required to make a decision within 8 weeks. If they fail to do so, the applicant can appeal to the Secretary of State but consent is not deemed to have been granted.
With PDR ZA, the Local Planning Authority will consider the method of demolition and the impact of the development on heritage and archaeology. Also, both the demolition and the new building must be completed within 3 years of the date on which the prior approval is granted. Finally, the development erected under PDR ZA must continue to be used as a dwelling house unless the other use is ancillary to its use as a dwelling house.
It is important to note that the permission granted by the PDR only concerns planning. All development must comply with building regulations and the developer must ensure the development does not involve a breach of the landlord’s covenants in a lease of the whole or part of the building being redeveloped (e.g. the quiet enjoyment covenant), breach of a restrictive covenant or the infringement of a right to light.
This blog summarises of the main conditions that apply to the above new PDRs. The regulations that cover the new PDRs are very detailed and complex, therefore, expert advice should be obtained from a professional adviser to ensure that the proposed development falls within the terms of the relevant PDR before making an application to the Local Planning Authority.