Adequate Natural light now a consideration in residential prior approval applications

Legislation Update
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Legislative changes are being made to the General Permitted Development Order through the Coronavirus Bill 2020 (25 June 2020) from 1st August 2020 in response to concerns raised about the quality of homes delivered in some developments under existing permitted development rights for changes of use to housing.

The Government states that the measures introduced will improve the quality of new homes being delivered under permitted development rights by requiring that ‘adequate natural light’ is provided in all habitable rooms.

The Amendment Regulations introduce a new matter for prior approval consideration in respect of the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms. This requirement will apply to developments to be delivered by Class M, N, O, PA and Q in Part 3 of Schedule 2 the General Permitted Development Order. These classes allow the change of use to dwellinghouses from:

– Class M: Retail shops (A1), Hot Food Takeaways (A5), financial and professional services (A2), a betting office or pay day loan shop;
– Class N: Specified sui generis uses (amusement arcade, centre or casino);
– Class O: Offices (B1a);
– Class PA: Light Industrial (B1c);
– Class Q: Agricultural buildings.

The new test will require the submission of detailed floor plans indicating the dimensions and proposed use of each room, the position and dimensions of windows, doors and walls, and the elevations of the homes. This is to enable the local planning authority to consider the provision of adequate natural light. Local planning authorities are expected to exercise their planning judgement when considering the detailed floor plans in their assessment of adequate light in habitable rooms. The provision allows local planning authorities to refuse prior approval applications where inadequate natural light is provided.

Habitable Rooms are defined as “any rooms used or intended to be used for sleeping or living which are not solely used for cooking purposes, but does not include bath or toilet facilities, service rooms, corridors, laundry rooms, hallways or utility rooms”.

The Government’s explanatory note further confirms that applications for prior approval submitted before 1st August 2020 will be determined in accordance with the right as in force at that time. This further states that those with a prior approval event (as defined in the Amendment Regulations) before 1st August 2020 may continue to rely on the permitted development right as though the amendments made by the Amendment Regulations had not been made.

Whilst the amendments are widely supported as they seek to ensure any new dwellinghouses are provided with windows and adequate natural light, there is less certainty in terms of how local planning authorities are expected to exercise their planning judgement based solely on the submission of planning drawings. No guidance is provided that quantifies what comprises ‘adequate natural light’ and it may transpire that local planning authorities will resort to requiring the submission of a daylight assessment in accordance with BRE guidelines despite this not being required by the amended legislation.

As with the other considerations of any prior approval, it is likely that the decision for any applicant will need to be made on a site-by-site basis depending on the merits of any individual scheme and/or the approach of each local planning authority, which will become clearer with time.

For more advice about this amendment or the permitted development provisions, please feel free to contact a member of the Firstplan team