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Use it or lose it: Landowners at risk of losing their development rights

Use it or lose it: Landowners at risk of losing their development rights

A recent proposed amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill could see a review of Permitted Development Rights (PDR) triggered within 12 months of the legislation’s enactment, under Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning Order. The independent review, to be conducted by the Secretary of State, would investigate the impact of such rights on local communities. Among the items that would be assessed are the past effectiveness of housing targets; the quality of housing delivered under PDR; the impact of PDR on heritage, conservation areas and setting; and the impact of PDR on the success of levelling-up missions. 

The Local Government Association, a local government lobby group, is campaigning for any rights enabling a change of use to residential to be removed, on the grounds that they undermine local planning authorities and reduce design quality in contrast to the Levelling Up bill’s initiative to place power back in the hands of local communities. 

Introduced by the government in 2013, PDR are a series of planning rules that enable certain types of development to move forward without planning permission. This has significantly streamlined the development process for developers looking to convert commercial or agricultural buildings to residential units. However, concerns have been raised regarding the impact on the quality of residential conversions, as PDR allows developers to circumvent various standards and regulations that impact quality and standards of living.

“Under these rules, communities have no way to ensure developers build high-quality affordable homes in the right places, provide any affordable homes as part of the development, along with infrastructure that provides enough schools, promotes greener and more active travel, and tackles climate change,” said LGA spokesman Cllr David Renard in response to an independent report commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. 

Should the LGA’s mission to remove such rights prove successful, landowners are at risk of losing PDR such as Class Q, which allows them to convert agricultural buildings into residential units without a full planning application. The implications of such a removal will be costly, as property owners will have to pay for a full planning application. Furthermore, they will no longer have the flexibility to sidestep various planning regulations, which can result in complications and costly extensions to development and conversion projects. Once a full planning application is submitted, it needs to be considered against the existing policies set in place for the area. For instance, projects that would be permitted under Class Q may not be allowed under local policy.  

If you have any queries regarding the conversion of agricultural buildings into residential dwellings, please contact the Planning and Design team via 01392 439046 or