Extending permitted development rights in England: the implications for public authorities and communities

In recent years there has been a significant expansion in permitted development (PD) rights in England. This Insights report brings together the key findings from two pieces of research, commissioned by the RICS Research Trust, to provide evidence about the extent, usage and implications of new PD rights. Impacts identified in the research relate to rural planning, the provision of affordable housing and the role of local authorities in place making.

The expansion of PD rights means, inter alia, that many more types of building conversion can now proceed without having to go through the full formal planning procedure in England. The main argument in favour of PD rights is that they remove unnecessary administrative impediments to development imposed by the planning system. Concerns, however, have been raised about both the principles and the specific impacts of different categories of PD. 

The research

Two teams, led by Peter Bibby and John Henneberry from the University of Sheffield and by Ben Clifford from University College London, were commissioned to investigate the impact of these changes, using complementary methodologies. The first team’s research involved a quantitative review of PD across England, assessing the extent, pattern and financial consequences of PD. The second team’s research, looked specifically into office-to-residential PD in England (and, for comparison, in Scotland and the Netherlands). Five local authority (LA) case studies were examined (Camden, Croydon, Leeds, Leicester and Reading). 

Key findings 

Impacts identified by the research include: 

  • The largest estimated financial impact to local authorities across England is the loss in affordable housing contributions. 
  • The benefits arising from savings in staffing costs within planning departments are not enough to offset the loss of fees.
  • Office to residential conversions under PD have also produced a higher amount of poor quality housing than schemes governed through full planning permission.

In response to these challenges, the report makes a series of recommendations to central and local government, local communities and civic groups and developers and their agents.


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