In order to address the ongoing issue of the UK’s housing shortage, the government has recently announced various initiatives to speed up the development process. These initiatives are extending permitted development rights, allowing construction of two further storeys on blocks of flats, office to residential conversions and also allowing for the demolition of certain vacant buildings for the development of new homes. We explore these initiatives and what they mean for registered providers (RPs) below.

The demolition of vacant buildings – what is the proposal?

Planning is not currently required for the demolition of a building where the volume is less than 40 cubic metres or for any gate, fence or wall. Demolition is already granted for permitted developments, subject to exceptions and conditions.

At this stage the demolition of vacant buildings that fall outside of the current scope is only a proposal and there is no firm legislation yet. However, new proposals will allow future developers to conduct demolitions of larger sites without having to apply for planning permission, subject to the following:

  • The building subject to demolition is empty (vacant commercial buildings, industrial buildings and residential blocks);
  • Their intended use is for them to be rebuilt as homes.

This may also be subject to further caps on the size of the site, value and location, however at this point no restrictions have been released.

Extra storeys

The Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulation 2020 comes into effect on 1 August 2020, allowing deemed planning permission to be granted for the construction of two further storeys on the top storey of a block of flats.

Whilst this type of development will not need a full planning permission, prior approval will need to be obtained from the local planning authority, and consideration must be given to:

  • an assessment of the impact for highways, transport contamination, flooding, access to light for neighbours and air traffic;
  • buildings utilising this must be less than 30 metres tall and have been built since 1948;
  • listed buildings and conservation areas are exempt.

From 1 August, subject to the above restrictions, residential redevelopment projects to add further storeys will be more streamlined. We can shortly expect further updates on this from the government to extend this to storeys above commercial units.

What about commercial space?

A further announcement has been made by the government for the extension of commercial offices and retail spaces, whose lower floors can have a two-floor extension in line with the above, and with the same restrictions to have the residential storeys sitting above the existing commercial units under permitted development rights.

Under current legislation, this right still does not apply where your block of flats has been converted from an office under the existing permitted development rights.

There are no timeframes for the extra storey extensions for commercial buildings and the demolition of vacant buildings, but there does seem to be a considerable sway from the government to push building post-COVID, with the government confirming legislation will be revised prior to summer recess on 22 July.

How can Capsticks help?

Our Housing & Regeneration team, one of the largest in the country, advises on all types of development transactions from forward funded schemes, section 106 developments and stock rationalisations to plot sales and general asset management work. We are experts on all aspects of planning law including s106 agreements, CIL advice, planning appeals, Compulsory Purchase Orders and all general planning law matters.

If you have any queries around what's discussed in this article, and the impact on your organisation, please speak to Chimi Shakohoxha, Suzanne Smith or Jennifer Eng to find out more about how Capsticks can help.