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RTPI: development rights for high street and height extensions should not be pursued

15 January 2019

Government proposals that use permitted development rights (PDR) to bypass local scrutiny to deliver housing in England fly in the face of democracy and put quality and affordability at risk, the RTPI says.

Permitted developments rights have been known to cause extensive problems. They are administrative tools which have been increasingly abused to achieve policy aims. 

The Institute warns that permitted development rights carry serious financial implications for local authorities as they would not be able to collect planning fees and developer contributions for affordable housing and infrastructure.

The RTPI strongly opposes the idea of allowing demolition and redevelopment of commercial sites into residential use through permitted development rights, as it would lead to the loss of mixed use developments which are often “very important for quality places, good design and local economy”. 

Permitted development rights are designed for simple or minor changes, not new developments of this scale which should be subject to full local planning scrutiny, the RTPI says.

The local planning process should be used instead to deliver the housing people want for its ability to exert better control over land use, design and infrastructure contributions as well as for its role in community participation.

Control over design, the public’s right to light, and the protection of neighbours and character of an area would be lost if buildings are allowed to be extended upwards through permitted development rights, the RTPI says.

Allowing shops to be converted to offices will only create “dead frontages” that will not help the high street and could disadvantage disabled people, it warns, while shop conversions to housing often create poor quality living conditions and insufficient space, as many studies have shown.

Richard Blyth, RTPI Head of Policy and Research, said:

“Current proposals to extend the use of permitted developments rights are piecemeal, short term measures that neither help declining high streets nor deliver quality, affordable housing. They are at odds with the Government’s professed priorities in increasing quality developments and building safety, and they add to the financial burden of local councils.

“Permitted developments rights have been known to cause extensive problems. They are administrative tools which have been increasingly abused to achieve policy aims. The local planning process, backed by national planning frameworks, should be used instead to deliver the housing people want for its ability to exert better control over land use, design and infrastructure contributions as well as for its role in community participation.”

The Government’s consultation “Planning reform: supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes” ended on 14 January.

Read the RTPI’s full response here.