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small changes equals big results

20 October 2008
The 1 October 2008 marked the coming into force of the second of the Governments recent amendments to the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. The first of the amendments was to facilitate the use of sustainable forms of power generation on peoples homes, whilst the second amendment allows additional freedoms for home owners to extend and renovate their properties.

It is now possible for home owners, subject to certain conditions being satisfied, to install solar panels, ground source heat pumps, certain parts of biomass heating systems and combined heat and power systems without the requirement to obtain planning permission. This change was brought about following a period of consultation set out in a governmental consultation paper in April 2007. It should be seen in the context that the Government are keen to bring a permissive regime to ensure the increased use of micro-generation equipment to meet our future energy needs occurs. It is the wish of the Department of Trade & Industry, Micro-Generation Strategy, that 30/40 of the United Kingdoms electricity demands could be met through the use of these technologies by 2050. These changes will be followed by a planning policy statement on planning and climate change and the Government already has guidance which requires local planning authorities to bring forward policies within their local development frameworks to require a percentage of energy in any new developments to come from on-site renewables, where this is viable.

Few people would argue against the sentiment that our energy needs should be provided by renewable energies where this is possible; but this must be balanced against the requirement to protect our townscape and good urban design. The fear is that the new development rights will significantly change, to its detriment, the landscape of our rural areas and town and cities.

The Household Development Consents Review steering group reported in July 2006 to the Department of Communities who had instructed them to prepare proposals to develop a newer, simplified permitted development system for households. This formed part of the then Office of Deputy Prime Ministers 5 Year Plan: Sustainable Communities Homes for All. The review in particular examined ways of reducing bureaucracy for householders whilst apparently seeking to protect the interests of the neighbours and the wider community.

The consultation has now led to the new amendments to the permitted development order which now enables fairly significant extensions to peoples houses. It is now possible for a householder to make extensions to their house provided that specified conditions are not breached. Examples of these are:

  • Extensions will not be able to be constructed beyond the principal wall elevation of a house where this fronts a highway
  • The extension must not exceed the height of the existing house or that the total area of buildings (excluding the original house) would exceed 50 of the total curtilage area
  • Any rear extension does not extend beyond three to four metres beyond the rear elevation of the original house. This will depend on whether the extension is one or two storey and whether the house is detached or not. Where the building is two storeys there are additional controls over the proximity the extension can go to the rear boundary
  • No extension may come within two metres of the boundary of the curtilage
  • The eaves of any extension must not exceed three metres

In respect of both amendments to the permitted development order, the devil is very much in the detail. For instance, in relation to the permitted development rights for extensions, there is a provision that no extension may extend beyond the principal elevation, where it fronts a highway, of the original house. However, it is not clear, until case law evolves, what the principal elevation of a house will be. This matter is likely to be particularly problematic when a house is orientated such that it has a highway to the front and rear if it. There are also references made to the original dwelling house and a proportionate increase in the size which is permitted by any extensions. However, it is not always clear, to persons who do not have a legal background in planning law, to know what an original dwelling house will be defined as.

As is already the case, the only way of knowing with any certainty whether your proposed extension is permitted by the permitted development rights is to make an application to the council for a Certificate of Proposed Use or Development (CLOPUD). Such an application is just as cumbersome, in terms of fees and time limits for approval, as a planning application and is often dealt with by local planning authorities with a fair amount of scepticism. In any event the matters referred to provide uncertainties in respect of some extensions and therefore you may require legal advice before commencing with any works.

From a wider community sense, one must also consider the affect these amendments will have on our neighbourhoods. Whilst they will see a vast reduction of planning applications and bureaucracy within local planning authorities for relatively minor developments, the provision of micro-generation equipment and large extensions on peoples houses has the potential to affect the amenity and aesthetic qualities of our neighbourhoods. Whilst there are provisions for local planning authorities to restrict these permitted development rights, they have traditionally been used fairly sparingly. This is the correct approach as local planning authorities should not restrict permitted development rights unless there are sound planning reasons to do so. It is therefore not envisaged that local planning authorities will use these substantially more with these new amendments.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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