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New PD rights and deemed discharge of planning conditions to be introduced in April

Several new types of existing buildings will be able to be converted into homes without full planning permission from 15 April under UK planning reforms that will also introduce the "deemed discharge" of certain planning conditions.31 Mar 2015

Among several new permitted development (PD) rights introduced by an order laid before parliament this week is a temporary right allowing buildings in storage or distribution uses to be converted into homes before April 2018. A permanent right will also be introduced allowing casinos and amusement arcades with up to 150 square metres of floor space to be converted into homes.

In a departure from plans announced in the government's technical consultation on planning last year, the order will not introduce a PD right to convert light industrial units into homes. Nor will it make permanent a temporary PD right that allows offices to be converted into homes until April 2016. However, an increase to the permitted size of rear extensions to homes will become permanent under the order.

A separate order, which will also take effect on 15 April, introduces a procedure through which applicants for planning permission will be able to deem certain planning conditions to be discharged should the relevant council fail to confirm discharge promptly. Under the new procedure, an applicant will be able to serve the council with a "deemed discharge notice" six weeks after applying for confirmation that a condition has been discharged. The notice will specify a date, at least two weeks later, on which the relevant condition will be considered to be discharged unless notice is received of the council's decision.

The second order will also introduce a requirement for local authorities to provide applicants for planning permission with written justification for imposing any planning conditions that require prior approval before development can start. The order will narrow the circumstances under which Natural England, English Heritage and the Highways Agency's successor, Highways England, must be consulted.

However, it will require the Garden History Society to be consulted on development likely to affect registered parks and gardens and make the lead local flood authority a statutory consultee on major planning applications with surface water drainage implications.

Planning expert Elizabeth Wiseman of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “In the run up to the general election the government is seeking to push through a number of changes to the planning system. There is no doubt that that the provision of housing will be a key election focus for all parties and this is seen in the government's introduction of a new PD right allowing the conversion of premises used for storage or distribution into residential homes."

"Eric Pickles, in his ministerial statement, also stated that the government will 'further consider the case for extending the office to residential reforms, which are helping to provide more new homes on brownfield land'," said Wiseman. "Other new policies and rights announced which may also be considered to have a political subtext include the right to install larger capacity solar panels on non-domestic buildings and support for the provision of car parking spaces.”

The reforms will take effect less than two weeks after another series of planning changes. On 6 April, a restriction on the pooling of section 106 infrastructure contributions in areas without an adopted community infrastructure levy charging schedule will take effect. On the same date, PD rights will be disapplied for the conversion or demolition of pubs listed as assets of community value and the thresholds at which applications must be screened to determine whether environmental impact assessments are required will be changed.