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Developing upwards in London - have your say

It is well known that there is a housing shortage in London. The London Plan sets out a minimum housing target of 42,000 net additional homes per year, but, on average, since 2008, only 25,000 additional homes have been completed each year. 

In an attempt to come up with innovative ways to create new homes, the Department for Communities and Local Government is consulting on putting in place ways for new homes to be created by adding storeys to existing buildings.

In this article, we set out the three ways of doing this that are being proposed.

The creating of a permitted development right  

If a property has a permitted development right, development that would normally require planning permission can be carried out without having to apply for it.

It is proposed that any permitted development right should be conditional upon the additional space being used to provide self-contained additional housing units. This would, therefore, stop owners just extending their own properties upwards.  

The right would also be subject to various restrictions. The consultation proposes that any extension would be limited in height to the roofline of an adjoining building. In addition, the right would be limited so that a maximum of two storeys could be added. Therefore, if there was a one storey building, adjoining a four storey building, you would only be able to build a maximum of two storeys on to the building (resulting in a three storey building) despite the fact that the adjoining building was four storeys high. The consultation includes useful diagrams to show how many storeys could be added in various scenarios.

The consultation suggests that the right should apply to existing residential premises, such as blocks of flats or houses, retail and other high street uses, and offices, and seeks views on this approach.

It is proposed that various types of property (such as listed buildings) should be excluded from the permitted development right. The consultation suggests that conservation areas and protected views should be subject to an additional prior approval. This would give the local planning authority the opportunity to consider the impact of any proposed development on a conservation area or protected view.

A neighbour consultation scheme is also proposed. The introduction of such a scheme begs the question whether it is really a true permitted development right. If neighbours raise objections, the local planning authority will have to consider the impact of the proposed development on the neighbours' amenity.

If this approach were adopted, it would, of course, be open to local planning authorities to issue an article 4 direction. This operates to remove permitted development rights in a specified area.  

Local development orders for additional storeys in specific areas 

This would enable local authorities to grant planning permission for upwards extensions in specific areas and would afford greater flexibility to local planning authorities than a permitted development right. The local planning authority could, for example, allow higher extensions in some areas than others. 

Before bringing in a local development order, the local planning authority would have to consult the local community and this would give local people the opportunity to give their views.

Support in the London Plan

The Mayor of London could bring forward new planning policies to support additional storeys for new dwellings when reviewing the London Plan.

Any alteration to the London Plan would be subject to public consultation, which would enable Londoners to comment on the proposed new policy. It would then be subject to a public examination, chaired by an independent inspector.

If this option were chosen, a planning application would still be required to build upwards. However, planning decisions would have to take account of the London Plan.

What will this mean?

If either the first or second option is adopted, this will enable developers to build on top of existing buildings without the need to get planning permission. Depending on the views of local people, and how much sway these are given, this may assist in bringing forward more homes in London.

Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove Jones

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at March 2016. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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