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30 Oct 2015

"Trick or treat?" - Permitted development rights

Which part of the property legal framework, or prospective development, scares you the most?

My "trick or treat" topic is permitted development rights – the ability to undertake development without the express grant of planning permission from the local planning authority.

The trick?  Permitted development rights (commonly known as PDRs) demonstrate just how political (for which read, "exciting") town and country planning really is.  PDRs change frequently – I can't think of any other statutory instrument which has been amended as often in the past 5 years!  The 'trick' posed by PDRs is the uncertainty surrounding them and the frustration that commercial developers have when trying to rely upon them.  A few years ago, changing the use of a building from office to residential use became a PDR and there was a great deal of excitement in the market, until developers saw that the resi use had to be "begun" before end May 2016: the works to change the use did not need to have begun (like implementing a planning permission), but the use needed to have begun i.e. someone had to be living there, eating rich tea biscuits and making cups of tea – potentially unworkable!

The treat? Fortunately, the political nature of PDRs means that changes can be effected speedily – earlier this month the Housing and Planning Minister (Brandon Lewis) announced that office to resi changes with become permanent PDRs and my "tea and biscuits" test will never be tested.  Hurrah for common sense.  And the cherry on the top with PDRs, is that there will now be a right to demolish offices to bring forward residential uses – no need to work with the constraints of a 1960s office block any longer!

This article was originally published on the Current Awareness service on LexisLibrary on [30/10/15]

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