Select committee says roll-out of wide-ranging new resi conversion right should be paused

A group of MPs has called on the government to halt the planned introduction of a raft of new residential permitted development rights next week and conduct a full review of the role of the controversial rights.

The report by MPs on the housing communities and local government select committee concluded introduction of the new right – allowing virtually all high street premises to convert to housing without requiring planning permission – should be paused while the government reviews “how it aligns with plan-led development and local democratic involvement”.

The findings come after the government has doubled down on the use of permitted development since the start of the pandemic, despite growing controversy over their use and a government-commissioned report finding that they produced worse-quality housing.

Terminus House best one

Terminus House in Harlow was converted to housing under permitted development right

In the last year the government has brought in new rights allowing the upward extension of a range of different property types, the demolition and rebuild as housing of a range of properties, and these latest far-reaching resi conversion rights due to come into force next week.

It was only after Tory MPs threatened to rebel against the government in a parliamentary debate on the issue last autumn, that the government changed tack by saying homes produced this way had to meet minimum space standards.

The select committee report said it was also very concerned by the location of many of the converted homes, including on business and industrial parks, and that councils should have a right to consider location when deciding on applications for prior approval under permitted development.

Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said he was sympathetic to the intention of building more homes that had prompted the recent PDR, but that the changes contradicted the government’s increased focus on plan-led development and local democratic involvement, and “fatally undermine the role of local authorities in shaping their communities”.

He said: “The government should pause any further extensions of permitted development rights for residential change of use and undertake a review of the role of such PDRs in the wider planning system, spelling out how this can be consistent with its proposed reforms as set out in last year’s Planning White Paper.

“It’s also crucial the PDR regime ensures local councils are be able to protect certain areas from permitted developments rights where they have legitimate concerns about the impact on town centres, high streets and commercial centres.”

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Councillor David Renard, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association, said the new rights could have an “adverse impact on our high streets” and should be “removed”

He said: “Building the homes the country needs should be delivered through a locally-led planning system, and in the right places supported by the right infrastructure. Only this ensures a mix of high-quality, affordable housing that meets the needs of local communities, while also giving those communities the opportunity to shape and define the area they live in.”