Planning Update

It has been coined the “most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War” and has pledged a “new approach” to planning.

The statement included the following changes which come into effect “by September” to include:  

  • More types of commercial premises allowed “total flexibility to be repurposed” through changes to the Use Classes Order. It was announced that buildings used for retail would be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring a planning application of local authority approval. Exceptions to this will include pubs, libraries, village shops and other types of uses essential to the lifeblood of communities.
  • A wider range of commercial building allowed to change to residential use without the need for planning permission.  
  • Builders will no longer require “normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial building if they are rebuilt as homes”.
  • Property owners will be able to build additional space above their residential properties via a fast track approval process. This will include the option to extend blocks of flats upwards by two storeys to create new homes.

A subsequent announcement by the Chancellor made yesterday confirmed that a planning “policy paper” will be published by the end of this month to make it easier to build better homes in the places people want to live”.

Below are further details on the above four key areas highlighted above, mainly focused on the final change relating to the creation of additional storeys.

Further announcements have been made on the extension of planning permissions for a temporary period as a result of Covid, together with re-introducing the principle of zonal areas. If either of these topics are of interest, please ask us for further information.

Changes to the Use Classes Order

The full details on the changes to the Use Classes Order to achieve the first three points above have not been announced and will probably form part of the “policy paper”. However, Robert Jenrick has followed up the Build, Build, Build statement with a letter to MP's which confirms the intention to:

“create a new broad category of commercial, business and service uses which will allow commercial, retail and leisure uses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances”

It was reconfirmed that:

“there are certain uses which give rise to important local considerations; for example to ensure local pubs and theatres are protected, or to prevent the proliferation of hot food takeaways or betting shops” andit would remain the case that changes to and from these uses will still be subject to full consideration through the planning application process”.  

Two Additional Storeys

Further details have been released on providing additional storey's to buildings. As expected, there are a significant number of limitations to this right. In the first instance, the following is permitted:

  • Works must be within the curtilage of the building.
  • Permitted works will include associated engineering operations reasonably necessary to construct the additional storeys.
  • Works for replacement of existing plant or installation of additional plant on the roof
  • Access works for both new and existing flats including means of escape from fire, additional external doors or external staircases.
  • Construction of storage, waste or other ancillary facilities for the new flats, provided they aren't situated forward of the principal elevation or a side elevation fronting a highway.
  • It may comprise strengthening existing walls or existing foundations, although permanent visible support structures on or attached to the exterior of the building are prohibited.
  • Works for installation of water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services are allowed.

There are, however, limitation to the height permitted, which include:

  • The existing building required to be no less than 3-storeys in height.
  • The floor to ceiling height cannot be more than 3 metres in height or more than the floor to ceiling height of any of the existing storeys of any additional storey, whichever is the lesser where measured internally
  • The extended building (not including plant) must be no greater than 30 metres in height.
  • The overall height of the roof of the extended building must be no greater than 7 metres.

Moreover, the building cannot be subject to any of the following designations:

  • Article 2(3) land including Conservation Areas, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and National Park.
  • A site of special scientific interest.
  • A listed building or land within its curtilage.
  • A scheduled monument or land within its curtilage.
  • A safety hazard area
  • A military explosives storage area
  • On land within 3 kms of the perimeter of an aerodrome.

To carry out these works, Prior Approval must be sought from the Local Planning Authority. Whilst it will not form a planning application and the principle of height is set subject to the above criteria, the following other matters will be considered by the Council as part of the process: 

  • Transport and highways impacts of the development.
  • Air traffic and defence asset impacts.
  • Contamination risks in relation to the building.
  • Flooding risks.
  • External appearance of the building.
  • Provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the new dwellings.
  • Impact on the amenity of the existing building and neighbouring premises including overlooking, privacy and the loss of light.
  • Impact the additional development will have on protected views.

A Council will have 8 weeks to determine an application for Prior Approval and this will include a 21-day statutory consultation period. The associated planning application fees have not been announced as yet. There will be a right to appeal if the application is refused.

Once Prior Approval is granted, the development must be completed within 3 years and the Council must be notified of completion in writing.


The new right will come into force on 1 August 2020.