Policy Support for Building Upwards

Policy Update
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If you can’t build out, build up. That’s the message from Housing Secretary Sajid Javid who has confirmed government backing ‘to create a new generation of town houses in cities like London and Manchester to ease pressure on valuable open spaces and help growing families’.

In an announcement made on 4 February 2018, Mr Javid confirmed that a policy will be introduced in the updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) supporting  upward extensions in a bid to ‘encourage developers to be more innovative and look at opportunities to build upwards where possible when delivering the homes the country needs’.

A consultation undertaken as part of the Housing White Paper published last February confirmed support for a policy approach to the principle of building upwards.  The Government is therefore favouring the introduction of new policy in the draft NPPF,  due to be published at the end of March 2018, rather than allowing additional storeys via permitted development rights or Local Development Orders. Similar policy support for upward housing extensions is included in the draft London Plan.

The announcement confirmed that the policy would apply to existing blocks of flats and houses as well as shops and offices, and goes on to say that:

‘For example, an additional 2 levels could be added to a property – provided it was in keeping with the roofline of other buildings in the area.

It will ensure councils can protect valuable open space in inner city areas, maintain the character of residential areas, safeguard people’s privacy and stop unwanted garden grabbing. These developments must remain in keeping with the character of the local area, including the preservation of listed buildings and conservation areas’.

There is little detail at this stage as to the wording of the policy, which will ultimately determine its strength.  For instance, the term ‘in keeping with the roofline of other buildings in the area’ clearly leaves room for interpretation – does this apply to the roofline of adjoining buildings only, or can the roofline of properties further down a street be used as a precedent? We will update you on the draft NPPF once it is published.