Over the past few years, the Government has encouraged developers to look at opportunities to build upwards where possible to help deliver new homes whilst protecting valuable open space in inner city areas. The recently revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) includes specific policy support for the use of airspace above residential and commercial premises for new homes, as does the emerging New London Plan. As a practice, Firstplan has certainly found this new policy approach useful in supporting planning applications involving upward development.
As part of this week’s Budget, the Government has published a consultation entitled Planning Reform: Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes. The consultation seeks to take support for the creation of additional homes above existing building in high streets and town centres one step further through the introduction of a new permitted development right.
The new PD right would be subject to prior approval by the local planning authority and would allow additional storeys to be built above certain buildings, in particular those in commercial or residential (C3) use. As with many PD rights, it would not apply in Article 2(3) land (including, for example, conservation areas).
Two different approaches are suggested in terms of height limits; either allowing the extension to be no higher than the ‘main roofline’ of the highest building in an existing terrace which would provide a fixed local point against which any proposal could be considered, or, alternatively, permitting upward extensions more widely to a height no higher than the ‘prevailing roof height’ in the locality. This latter approach would leave much more room for interpretation as it would require the local authority to ‘define what it considered to be the prevailing roofline taking account of the local building types and heights and the extent of the area over which it should be determined’.
In order to protect local amenity, it is proposed that there should be a maximum limit of 5 storeys from ground level for a building once extended. Anything higher would require a planning application.
Separately, purpose built, free standing blocks of flats (C3) over 5 storeys are thought to provide an opportunity to deliver additional new homes through upwards extensions and the government would also like a permitted development right to apply to such buildings.
In our experience, the use of airspace above an existing building can certainly present a good opportunity for development in some instances, and the proposed new PD rights could potentially complement existing policy support.
The government is asking for responses to this consultation to be submitted by 14 January 2019. If you have any queries regarding the consultation or airspace development more generally, please feel free to contact one of the Firstplan team.