The Town and Country Planning Association has warned that the government’s planned expansion of permitted development will deprive local authorities of essential funding and risks creating poor living conditions for vulnerable people.
Announced in the recent autumn budget, new planning rules will give developers permission to convert high street shops into homes without first seeking planning permission, and so bypassing requirements for affordable housing, local infrastructure or minimum housing space standards.
Research published by RICS claims that permitted development has so far ben a ‘fiscal giveaway’ from the state to private real estate owners and developer. The report finds that local authorities have lost out on £10.8m in funding from ‘planning gain’ and around 1,667 affordable housing units (as of May 2018).1 When local authorities were asked whether permitted development had made a positive impact on their affordable housing stock, only 4% agreed.
Dr Hugh Ellis, interim chief executive of the TCPA, said “Converting commercial and disused high-street properties into homes is fine, so long as it doesn’t condemn desperate people — often young people or poor families — to live in badly designed boxes without consideration for their health and wellbeing.
“Under the existing system of permitted development, 1,000 new flats can be built in an old 1970s office building or industrial estate, and the local council can’t require a single sq. ft. of play space for the children who live there — and the communities have effectively no say. This cannot become the norm.
“The rebirth of town centres requires vision and masterplanning, with real investment in culture and the built environment. How can we pay for this investment when permitted development removes the power of local authorities to get one penny in section 106 contributions from developers?”