1.In the past year, the Government has committed itself to reforming the planning system to make it more accessible, efficient and predictable. Central to this policy objective are the long-term reforms outlined in last year’s White Paper, Planning for the future. Whilst the Government formulates its proposals in response to the consultation on the White Paper, it says it wants to “explore more immediate changes to the planning system”, with the objective of introducing more certainty and flexibility.
2.The most notable of these immediate changes are those to the system of permitted development announced in the last year, in particular the creation of a new use class for most commercial, business and services premises (use class E) and the introduction of a new permitted development right (PDR) for change of use from the new use class to residential, known as the class MA right. The new PDR is the latest in a series of PDRs permitting change of use to residential.
3.The purpose of the recent changes to permitted development is to increase housing delivery, especially on brownfield sites, and revitalise high streets and town centres by making it easier for landlords and developers to respond to changing demand. The Government also argues that the additional homes in town centres will have the knock-on effect of increasing footfall and so will further boost local economies.
4.The use of PDRs to permit change of use to residential has been controversial since the first one was introduced in 2013. Among the most persistent criticisms have been the impact on the ability of local authorities to plan development and on high streets and town centres; the poor quality of some of the housing delivered through PDRs; and the ability of permitted development to avoid contributing to the cost of offsetting its negative impact on communities, including through the provision of physical and social infrastructure and affordable housing. In the light of these concerns, we decided to conduct an inquiry into the Government’s approach to permitted development.
5.On 23 March 2021, we launched our inquiry into permitted development rights with a call for evidence. The inquiry received 97 written submissions and took oral evidence from Shelter; Reading Council; the Local Government Association (LGA); the Country Land and Business Association (CLA); the British Property Federation (BPF); the London Property Alliance; the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM); the YIMBY Alliance and PricedOut; the Institute of Place Management (IPM); Dr Ben Clifford, from the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London; Policy Exchange; London First; the Minister for Housing, Rt Hon. Christopher Pincher MP; and Simon Gallagher, Director of Planning at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). We are grateful to all those who gave evidence. We are also grateful for the support and advice throughout this inquiry from our two specialist advisors, Kelvin MacDonald, Senior Fellow at the Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, and Christine Whitehead, Emeritus Professor of Housing Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
6.In chapter 2, we explore the history of permitted development and the recent changes, particularly those allowing change of use to residential, and how they relate to both the wider planning system, as it exists now, and the Government’s proposed planning reforms. In chapter 3, we consider how permitted development has affected the ability of local authorities to shape communities and plan development in their areas and the tools available to them to control and restrict the use of PDRs in certain areas. In chapter 4, we turn to the impact of the new use class E and class MA right on high streets and town centres. In chapter 5, we explore the contribution permitted development makes to the delivery of new housing and the impact of its general exemption from Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy.
1 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, , (August 2020)
5 MHCLG, , para 5
7 For example, see: Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, , (May 2018); London Councils, , (August 2015)