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Happy Brownfield Development/ Urban Densification Day .... more consultations and another proposed change to the NPPF

Today has certainly been a busy one for DLUHC…. 

Between 8.45am and 5.15pm, the Department published no less than eight separate updates relating to increasing rates of development on brownfield land. I know this, as I received an email alert for each and every one of them.

This post is a high-level summary of the content of those updates. High level, both because there is a lot to cover, but also because there is a glass of wine waiting for me at the end of this post…

Consultation 1: Strengthening planning policy for brownfield development

The first of the two consultations launched today sets out a number of proposed policy changes aimed at encouraging brownfield development.

In particular the Government is seeking views on:

  1.  changing paragraph 129c) of the NPPF so that it reads as follows:

“local planning authorities should refuse applications which they consider fail to make efficient use of land, taking into account the policies in this Framework, especially where this involves land which is previously developed. In this context, when considering applications for housing, authorities should give significant weight to the benefits of delivering as many homes as possible and take a flexible approach in applying planning policies or guidance relating to daylight and sunlight and  internal layouts of development, where they would otherwise inhibit making the most efficient use of a site (as long as the resulting scheme would provide acceptable living standards).” new text in bold.

This policy would apply to all local planning authorities in England.

2.  Applying the presumption in favour of sustainable development (or tilted balance) to development on previously developed land in those 20  towns and cities subject to the urban uplift, where the Housing Delivery Test score within the affected local planning authorities falls to 95% or below; and

3. Raising the threshold for referring a planning application of potential strategic importance in London to the Mayor of London from 150 units to a currently unspecified level 

The consultation closes on 26 March 2024.

The full details can be found here.

Consultation 2: Changes to various permitted development rights

The second consultation of the day is on…. you guessed it…. permitted development rights….

DLUHC is consulting on various changes to the current regime, including:

  • Making a number of changes to householder permitted development rights to make them more user friendly and otherwise liberalise and extend the scope of the regime. For example, by allowing larger extensions, wrap around extensions, permitting bin and bike stores in the front of buildings and allowing flats to carry out loft extensions under PD for the first time.
  • Liberalising the restrictions on permitted rights for upward extensions by:
    • Extending the scope of the right of the rights to properties built before 1948 (either by substituting an earlier date or removing it entirely); and
    • Otherwise streamlining and simplifying the regime
  • Allowing the PD right that permits demolition and rebuild to apply to buildings constructed after 31 December 1989 and making various other changes to the rights.
  • Liberalising the PD rights that apply to EV charging points and (seperately) air source heat pumps.

The consultation closes on 9 April 2024. 

Full details can be found here.

Actual Changes to Class MA Permitted Development Rights

In a change that was not so obviously flagged in the updates, the Government has also made another amendment to the GPDO - which will come into force on 5 March 2024.

The Statutory Instrument makes the following changes to Class MA of Part 3, Schedule 2 to the GPDO:

  • It removes the requirement that a building must have been vacant for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately prior to the date of an application for prior approval; and
  • It removes the floorspace upper limit for buildings changing use under the right.

This means that, absent an Article 4 Direction or restrictive conditions, a building in Class E use can now be converted to residential use:

  • Regardless of its size; and
  • Regardless of whether (and how long) it is vacant at the time of the application.

The full statutory instrument can be found here

London Plan Review: Report and Response

Today has also seen the publication of both the outcome of London Plan Review, which DLUHC commissioned in December, and the Government's response to it.

As I am running out of time, I am not going to attempt to summarise these for you. You should read them, though, as they may well be seen as a sign of things to come…..

And then, just after 5pm, DLUHC issued a press release announcing more funding for estate regeneration schemes in London.

The key sections are repeated below:

"As part of major package to deliver much needed homes in cities across the UK, the Government has announced a £50 million investment to regenerate London estates, £4m to explore maximum ambition housing delivery around Euston, and £125m to unlock three major brownfield sites in East and South London.

The new investment will be made available to existing estate regeneration schemes that carry the support of local communities. This funding is on top of the £1 billion allocated in the capital through the Government’s Affordable Homes Programme which can now, be used to support the regeneration of old social housing estates so that residents have homes that are safe, decent, warm and secure. "

Article 4 Direction Interventions

And finally, DLUHC has published a string of interventions in various councils' Article 4 Directions.

The link to the whole list is here.

The affected authorities are:

  • Brent
  • Hillingdon
  • Three Rivers


So what does it all mean? 

Well, for one thing it looks as DLUHC is serious about increasing rates of development on brownfield land. It is also probably fair to say that the Government's love affair with PD Rights, and disapproval of Article 4 Directions, continues unabated.

Whether these propoals will make a meaningful difference on the ground, however, is an entirely separate question. Brownfield developments, particularly in urban areas, are both more complex and more expensive than many realise. These sites often have high abnormals and infrastructure costs associated with them - as well as more complicated BNG needs - which can place pressure on their viability.

Whilst developers, particularly SMEs, will welcome a more permissive policy environment, without more funding for remediation and enabling works these changes are unlikely to result in the building boom that the Government is hoping for….

We are therefore seeking views on two proposals, which are informed by both the London Plan Review and responses received to past consultations:

a. first, a change to national planning policy that would expect local planning authorities to give significant weight to the benefits of delivering as many homes as possible, and to be flexible in applying policies or guidance on the internal layout of developments especially for proposals on brownfield land. This policy would apply to all authorities; and

b. second, the application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development in respect of previously developed land only for those 20  towns and cities subject to the urban uplift, where their Housing Delivery Test score falls to 95% or below.”