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Organisations warn against poor design resulting from permitted development

Government proposals to extend upwards and convert commercial properties into dwellings by extending permitted development rights will result in poor-quality development and see public services suffer.

This is the verdict of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), the Civic Voice, and the Bath Preservation Trust, who have published their responses to the government’s consultation Planning Reform: Supporting the High Street and Increasing the Delivery of New Homes.

The TCPA says it is “firmly opposed” to extending permitted development, particularly the proposals to allow commercial properties to be demolished and rebuilt for residential use, and extend building upward to create new homes without going through the full planning process.

The organisation acknowledges that converting employment building to residential buildings can be done to a good standard, delivering much-needed homes. But doing so through permitted development results in “extremely limited” scrutiny and oversight of developments, it said.

Citing research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the TCPA said current permitted development has resulted in poor-quality development that has had “serious adverse implications for people’s health and well-being”. Contributions to affordable housing and local infrastructure are lost too, with public services suffering as a result.

The Civic Voice is also concerned about the measures. Executive director Ian Harvey said the charity supports the principle of encouraging a greater mix of uses on the high street and the rationale for exploring the use of airspace.

“However, given the high visibility and prominence of upward extensions and potential impact on the street scene, local character and amenity, very careful consideration of such proposals must be required.”

Civic Voice object to the proposals to extend up to the highest building in a street unless “full consideration” is given to design, external appearance and the impact on amenity and character of the area.

Joan Humble, chair of the Civic Voice, disagrees with the government, which believes its plans would help revive high streets. “We may end up with poor-quality designed housing without consideration for the wider built environment, something we know is key to successful high streets.”

In its response to the consultation, The Bath Preservation Trust said the answer to the crisis faced by the high streets is not the relaxation of planning obligations or “sidelining” the planning system. This could have “adverse effects on the vitality, amenity and character” of high streets, and accelerate harmful change and loss.

The RTPI has also expressed its worries about permitted development and the serious financial implications for local authorities, which would not be able to collect planning fees and developer contributions.

The institute maintains that permitted development rights are designed for simple or minor changes, not new developments on this scale, which should be subject to full local planning scrutiny.

16 January 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner