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An introduction to permitted development rights

Cllr Claire Kober, London Councils’ Executive member for infrastructure and regeneration, said:

Councillor Claire Kober“While we welcome the government’s decision to extend existing exemptions for three more years, it is disappointing that the government has decided to make permitted development rights permanent. We urgently need more homes in London but a planning free-for-all is not the answer.

“Permitted development rights prevent boroughs insisting on an affordable housing contribution, meaning that much-needed low-cost homes for rent or ownership agreed through the planning process will not be delivered.

“Under this scheme thousands of square metres of office space has already been lost, displacing jobs and threatening the viability of economic centres. It is very difficult to support jobs and growth without suitable commercial property and the loss of this kind of accommodation has a knock-on effect on community amenities such as dentists’ surgeries.”

What are they?

Permitted development rights enable the conversion of office accommodation to residential use without requiring planning permission from the local authority.

Developers are required only to give a ‘prior approval’ notification. Through this procedure boroughs are required only to consider transport and highways impacts, contamination risks and flooding risks.

Learn more of the background

Exemptions and Article 4

Certain areas of London, including the Central Activities Zone, the Canary Wharf area and Tech City, have been exempted from the permitted development rights until May 2019. This means that office accommodation in these areas still requires a full planning application to convert to residential use.

The government introduced these exemptions in order to protect office accommodation considered to be of particular economic importance. Individual planning authorities may also seek to reimpose the requirement for planning permission in specific areas or premises through an “Article 4” direction.

Read more about the Article 4 direction

Office block in London 2

What’s happening to them?

In October 2015, the government announced it would make office-to-residential permitted development rights permanent, and added new rights to enable the change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to new homes. 

What’s the problem?

In many parts of the capital there is a significant difference between the value of residential properties compared to offices. Combined with high demand and land scarcities this means there is a strong incentive for landlords to convert offices into residential dwellings.

This has meant that there has been a significant impact on offices available, especially in outer boroughs, and consequently local economies.

Some key consequences of the permitted development rights to London’s economy include: