Quality concerns over permitted development rights

Permitted development rights increase the chance of poor quality housing.
Permitted development rights increase the chance of poor quality housing.
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A new research report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors highlights concerns over Permitted Development Rights in Yorkshire.

PD Rights allow offices and other commercial buildings to be converted into homes without the need for full planning permission and developers have embraced the opportunity. However, the RICS research, which focuses on five local authorities with high rates of permitted development schemes, including Leeds, reveals that little or no family housing is being provided in the conversions. It also shows that many of the homes delivered do not meet national space standards.

It adds that only one per cent of the 310 new units being created by office-to-residential conversion under PD rights in Leeds city centre have access to private or communal amenity space. Where it was possible to tell, only 43 per cent complied with national space standards. Seventy per cent of the units were studio or one bedroom apartments.

Outside of the city centre, the quality of conversions was even more of a concern, most notably on peripheral industrial estates where they have resulted in some apartments with very low space standards and are in locations providing poor residential amenity.

The study showed that that permitted development schemes created a hugher number of poor quality properties compared to those governed through full planning permission.

The potential impact on local publicly-funded infrastructure was also assessed. As the schemes were not making Section 106 contributions, local authorities were subject to losses of £4.1 million due to reduced planning fees and a potential loss of £10.8 million, along with the loss of 1,667 affordable housing units.

However, developers and agents cited benefits including delivering more housing units, regeneration of town and city centres and quicker implementation.

The report, commissioned by RICS and written by teams from UCL and the University of Sheffield, makes a number of recommendations. These include amending community infrastructure levy regulations so that all developments creating new residential units are liable and adding safeguards, including minimum space standards, to the prior approvals process.

Abdul Choudhury, RICS Policy Manager said: “Permitted development rights have the potential to ease the UK housing crisis and speed up delivery of developments by reducing regulatory burdens. However, safeguards are necessary to mitigate negative aspects of development and to uphold minimum standards. By bypassing regulations, the policy may create more problems than it solves.

“Particularly with office or agricultural to residential, government needs to balance the competing priorities of housing, infrastructure and need for commercial spaces. In some areas, over-conversion has produced a shortage of employment units which has pushed up their costs. Government needs re-examine the policy.”