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Planning permission vital to protect vulnerable people, says RTPI

  • Relaxation of planning permission rules criticised by Royal Town Planning Institute and other leading organisations
  • Government plans will have disproportionate effect on those communities already hardest hit by Covid-19 pandemic, says RTPI
  • Longer-term sustainable stewardship needed to address UK’s housing crisis

Plans by the government, announced this morning, extending controversial new ‘rights’ to alter or replace buildings without the need for planning permission risk adding to the country’s already prevalent health and societal inequalities, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has said.

In an open letter to Secretary of State Robert Jenrick, signed by the RTPI, Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Chartered Institute of Building, the UK’s leading built environment organisations say that more permitted development rights (PDRs) will ‘lock in’ unacceptable standard development.

The RTPI further warns that communities already hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic will bear the brunt of the Government’s ‘serious error of judgment’.

RTPI Chief Executive Victoria Hills said:

“This move to increase the use of PDRs is a serious error of judgement from the Government which will have a negative impact on the quality of life of future residents and local communities.

“All PDRs should require minimum space, building and design standards, and should be implemented in such a way as to ensure they contribute towards affordable housing and community infrastructure. Having these safeguards does not mean delays in construction - it means that the homes built in the early 2020s will not become the social disasters of the 2030s.  

“We strongly urge more proactive planning for the built environment. Longer-term stewardship would be a more sustainable solution, looking at interventions earlier in the building process, rather than bluntly repurposing buildings that are fundamentally not suitable as housing.

“The RTPI’s campaign Plan the World We Need calls on the government to capitalise on the expertise of planners in order to achieve a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We stand ready to engage constructively to deliver the good-quality, safe and well-connected housing that the country so badly needs.”

The RTPI has long campaigned against the increased use of PDRs, and says that automatic permissions already implemented by the current government for the conversion of office spaces to housing - without requirements relating to quality, size, sustainability and design - has led to spaces detrimental to the wellbeing of residents.  

The RTPI also points out that the latest independent research funded by the Government confirms health and wellbeing will be negatively impacted by the increased use of PDRs – a report published this morning looking at the differences between homes delivered through permitted development compared with planning applications concluded that:

permitted development conversions do seem to create worse quality residential environments than planning permission conversions in relation to a number of factors widely linked to the health, wellbeing and quality of life of future occupiers

The recent move to require natural light in homes created from office conversions was welcome, the RTPI says, but the organisation says it remains unconvinced that more PDRs are going to address the UK’s housing crisis.

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