New Planning Rules – Is The Freedom to Add 2 Extra Floors To Your House A Good Idea?

 

The BBC have announced that the government are intending to relax ‘Permitted Development’ planning rules so that homeowners in England will be ‘permitted to add two extra floors‘.

The idea is apparently to  ‘prompt people to build more bedrooms or flats for elderly relatives, and create additional apartments‘.

Our reaction at Rightsurvey to this preliminary announcement is that it doesn’t appear to have been thought-through too cleverly.  Like so much government policy today it seems to be designed primarily to generate favourable knee-jerk headlines, but longer term may have unfortunate unintended consequences.

For a start, it’s not a particularly good omen that the announcement came on the same day as a report on a previous government scheme allowing commercial buildings to be converted to residential use without planning. This report found that only 1 in 5 of the resulting homes complied with national space standards. Some of the flats converted from offices were absurdly small – with less space than many living rooms at just 4 metres square.  Worse, most flats suffered from inadequate light or poor ventilation –  and some had no windows at all!

In summary, the resulting flats were of such awful quality that they affected “the health, wellbeing and quality of life of the occupiers“.  In other words, slashing existing planning rules risks giving a green light to the nation’s cowboy builders.

And in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy (itself the result of ‘light-touch regulation’), it seems strangely perverse to be relaxing the rules for adding extra floors – with significantly increased fire risks.

A few obvious concerns are:-

  • Doubling the height of a typical 2 storey house will obviously cause massive problems with overlooking and overshadowing of neighbouring properties.
  •  
  • If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house and the property next door is effectively doubled in height, their gain in living space will come at your expense. Not only will it look absurd, potentially blighting the entire street, but any extra flats built without planning consent risk problems with overcrowding, noise, traffic and parking. These issues would very likely be reflected in the diminution of market value in neighbouring properties.
  •  
  • Building Regulations approval will still be required, particularly with regard to the rules for escape from fire and protection from falling. Adding major loadings to existing buildings also has structural implications, which can equally affect adjoining buildings. So it’s very worrying that the cowboy builders responsible for converting large numbers of offices into flats under the relaxed Permitted Development Rights managed to get away with ignoring Building Regulations legislation.
  •  
  • Based on past experience, it seems likely that many properties where rooms are created in upward extensions will end up being illegally let (without HMO licenses) to poorer tenants such as students, benefit claimants and asylum seekers – people who are desperate and not empowered to challenge exploitation.
  •  
  • When Westminster slashes planning controls it means that local people no longer get a say on local developments that directly affect them.

 

The possible saving grace is what happened in 2013 when the Conservative government suddenly decided to double the size of home extensions you could build under Permitted Development Rights (without planning consent).

When it came to implementing this idea, in order to balance the competing interests of extenders and neighbours in the real world a compromise was eventually hammered out. This required homeowners wishing to massively extend their properties to notify the local planning authority and provide plans and a description of the proposal. The local authority then wrote to adjoining neighbours who were given 21 days to make an objection.

If no objection was received the homeowner could proceed and extend their house without making a formal planning application.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next blog – coming soon …….

MOVING IN ON COMPLETION DAY

 

Check out our Rightsurvey blog page for more industry tips and secrets written by property professionals to help put you in control.