In a report to be considered by councillors on EDDC’s development management committee next Tuesday (4 December), officers do not support any of the relaxation to a whole series of planning policies which would remove the requirement for planning permission for big expansions

However, the response to proposals for big expansions to industrial development, is rather watery, and in my view, needs a far stronger response.

I have copied the report in full below, which is in the form of a question and answer consultation form, as it brings home exactly how much the government, yet again, is determined to weaken the planning rules.  The losers if plans are approved, as it always seems to be with this government, would be the people…………………………

Introduction
The government is consulting on a number of changes to permitted development rights (the rights that enable developments to be carried out without needing planning permission). These changes would enable a broader range of works to be exempt from needing planning permission. The government believes that 40,000 families a year will benefit from these changes believing that each family would benefit from a saving of up to £2,500 in planning and professional fees. They also suggest that 20,000 new extensions could generate up to £600m of construction output supporting up to 18,000 jobs.

The Proposals
The proposals can be summarised as follows –

• Increasing the size limits for the depth of single-storey domestic extensions from 4m to 8m (for detached houses) and from 3m to 6m (for all other houses), in nonprotected areas, for a period of three years. No changes are proposed for extensions of more than one storey.

• Increasing the size limits for extensions to shop and professional/financial services establishments to 100m2, and allowing the building of these extensions up to the boundary of the property (except where the boundary is with a residential property), in non-protected areas, for a period of three years.

• Increasing the size limits for extensions to offices to 100m2, in non-protected areas, for a period of three years.

• Increasing the size limits for new industrial buildings within the curtilage of existing industrial premises to 200m2, in non-protected areas, for a period of three years.

• Removing some prior approval requirements for the installation of broadband infrastructure for a period of five years.

Details of the proposals
The following section will look at each proposal in more detail and suggest a response to each of the consultation questions:

Increased limits for homeowner rear extensions and conservatories
At present single storey extensions with a depth beyond the rear wall of 4m for a detached house, and 3m for any other type of house are allowed under permitted development rights, subject to various limitations such as not being able to cover more than 50% of the curtilage of the house. To provide greater flexibility for homeowners it is proposed to change these distances to 8m in the case of detached
houses and 6m in the case of any other type of house. It is important to note that these changes would not apply to designated areas such as conservation areas or areas of outstanding natural beauty. 

Question 1: Do you agree that in non-protected areas the maximum depth for single-storey rear extensions should be increased to 8m for detached houses, and 6m for any other type of house?
No –  The increased depths of extensions would allow for excessively large extensions which would in a number of cases have a significant impact on the amenity of neighbouring properties.

This would particularly be the case in high density locations where there is limited space between properties and cases where their is a significant difference in ground levels between adjoining properties which could lead to a rear single storey extension having a significantly overbearing and visually intrusive impact where a neigbour is at a lower ground level.

It should also be noted that in countryside locations even single storey extensions can have a significant visual impact when viewed across a valley or from differing ground levels and could cumulatively erode the visual amenity and character of an area if not suitably controlled.

Making it easier to carry out garage conversions
The government is keen to support family annexes and enable garages to be converted to form ancillary accommodation to the main house to enable live-in teenagers and elderly relatives to live with their families but with some privacy and independence, thereby freeing up housing stock.

Question 2 :  Are there any changes which should be made to householder permitted development rights to make it easier to convert garages for the use of family members?
Garages can already be converted to form ancillary accommodation without needing planning permission so no changes to permitted development rights are required.

• Increasing the size limits for new industrial buildings within the curtilage of existing industrial premises to 200m2, in non-protected areas, for a period of three years.
• Removing some prior approval requirements for the installation of broadband infrastructure for a period of five years.

Problems arise when annexes subsequently become used as a separate dwelling once the family member no longer needs the annex. This has led to separate dwellings being formed without planning permission and 4 years elapsing before the Local Planning Authority is aware of this such that they have become lawful by default.

In such cases the newly formed dwelling often has insufficient space or there are amenity concerns with the formation of a separate dwelling and no infrastructure provision has been made in terms of open space and education provision to address needs arising from the use as a separate dwelling.

Action is needed to prevent separate dwellings being created by default through this route.

Increased limits for extensions to shops and financial/professional services establishments, with development to the boundary of the premises
Shops and financial/professional services establishments are currently able to extend their premises by up to 50m2, provided that this does not increase the gross floor space of the original building by more than 25%, and subject to various other limitations. The government proposes that outside of protected areas, these limits should be raised to 100m2 and 50%.

They say that this will bring significant benefits for businesses, and will allow them to grow quickly without the need for costly and time-consuming planning applications. They also propose to allow businesses to build up to the boundary of the premises, except where the boundary is with a residential property, when the requirement to leave a 2m gap along the boundary would remain.

Other limitations and conditions would remain the same, and existing protections under other regimes would continue to apply. For example, the height of the building as extended must not exceed 4m, and the development must not consist of changes to a shop front, or extensions beyond a shop front.

Question 3:  Do you agree that in non-protected areas, shops and professional/financial services e stablishments should be able to extend their premises by up to 100m 2, provided that this does not increase the gross floor space of the original building by more than 50%?

The permitted development rights under Part 42 for shops or catering, financial or professional services establishments were only introduced in 2010 and have been rarely used in East Devon if ever. This is because very few shops within our towns have the land available to do these extensions and therefore the increase in floor area is not going to benefit them. This change could only really benefit out of town retail units and supermarkets further increasing the range of products and services provided to the detriment of our town centres.

Question 4 : Do you agree that in non-protected areas, shops and professional/financial services establishments should be able to build up to the boundary of the premises, except where the boundary is with a residential property, where a 2m gap should be left?

If developments up to boundaries are going to be permitted then such extensions where businesses do have the land to extend into will be all the more prominent. It will therefore be necessary to expand the restriction to ensure that any extension is constructed in materials which have a similar external appearance as those used on the main building. At present this restriction only applies in protected areas but should apply everywhere particularly if building to boundaries is to be permitted.

Increased limits for extensions to offices
Offices are currently able to extend their premises by up to 50m2, provided that this does not increase the gross floor space of the original building by more than 25%, and subject to various other limitations. It is proposed that outside of protected areas, these limits be raised to 100m2 and 50% in order to provide greater flexibility for business expansion.

Other limitations and conditions would remain the same, and protections under other regimes will continue to apply. For example, buildings within 10m of the boundary must not be more than 5m high, in other cases the extension cannot exceed the height of the existing building, and new extensions must not be within 5m of the boundary.

Question 5: Do you agree that in non-protected areas, offices should be able to extend their premises by up to 100m2, provided that this does not increase the gross floor space of the original building by more than 50%?

The potential problem with a blanket change like this is that in order to accommodate such a large extension many office developments may extend into their car park or important landscaped areas. Without any mechanism to control this the impact of such extensions could be quite significant in terms of the amenity of a location or in terms of highway safety if cars end up being parked on the public highway. It is therefore considered important to maintain control over extensions of this scale through the planning application process.

Increased limits for new industrial buildings
At present, new industrial buildings or warehouses which are up to 100m2 in size can be built within the curtilage of an existing industrial building or warehouse in a nonprotected area, provided that this does not increase the gross floor space of the original building by more than 25%.

It is proposed that outside of protected areas, these limits be raised to 200m2 and 50%. This is to allow these businesses to expand quickly without the time and expense of going through the planning process. There are already generous limits for the extension of industrial and warehouse buildings (up to 1,000m2), so no changes are proposed to those limits.

To protect local amenity, other limitations and conditions would remain the same, and existing protections under other regimes will continue to apply. For example, buildings within 10m of the boundary must not be more than 5m high, there must be no building within 5m of the boundary, and there must be no reduction in the space available for parking or turning of vehicles.

Question 6: Do you agree that in non-protected areas, new industrial buildings of up to 200m 2 should be permitted within the curtilage of existing industrial buildings an d warehouses, provided that this does not increase the gross floor space of the original building by more than 50%?

200 square metres is a very large building and it is vitally important that control is maintained over such buildings to protect the amenities of the area and its residents.

Question 7 : Do you agree these permitted development rights should be in place for a period of three years?
If these changes are to be implemented they should certainly not be permanent.

Question 8: Do you agree that there should be a requirement to complete the development by the end of the three-year period, and notify the local planning
authority on completion?

If a temporary period is to be used then it is important that any works must be completed before the end of that period because otherwise developers will make a material start on the works and seek to finish them at a later date which would generate enforcement issues later and potential disagreements over when a start was made and therefore whether the works are permitted development.

Protected areas
In order to make sure that there is no adverse impact on protected areas, the government propose that the changes listed above should not apply on ‘article 1(5) land’.The main areas this covers are:
• National Parks
• Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
• conservation areas
• World Heritage Sites
• the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads

In addition they propose that the changes should not apply on Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Question 9: Do you agree that article 1(5) land and Sites of Special Scientific Interest should be excluded from the changes to permitted development rights for homeowners, offices, shops, professional/financial services establishments and industrial premises?
Yes

Delivery of Superfast Broadband
At present, under part 24 of the General Permitted Development Order, fixed broadband apparatus such as cabinets, telegraph poles, and overhead lines have permitted development rights, which means they can be installed without the need to apply for planning permission. This is subject to a prior approval process on article 1(5) land which allows planning authorities to consider the siting and appearance of communications apparatus before development commences.

These permitted development rights allow for speedier deployment of communications infrastructure, although the prior approval process can create uncertainty for developers and prolong the time taken on installation. It is proposed to remove these requirements on the protected areas listed above. The government intends to ask relevant operators to work with local planning authorities to agree good practice to include the principles governing siting and design in their area.

Question 1 0: Do you agree that the prior approval requirement for the installation, alteration or replacement of any fixed electronic communications equipment should be removed in relation to article 1(5) land for a period of five years?

It is agreed that there should be no need for prior approval to be sought where the proposed works are in accordance with an agreed good practice guidance note that has been formally adopted by the Local Planning Authority. Provided this is stipulated as a requirement in any revisions to the GPDO then there is no objection to this change.

Impact Assessment
Appended to the main consultation is an impact assessment for the proposals which considers the impact on various affected groups. In terms of householder applicants it suggests that 10 –  20% of householder applications would become permitted development. In reality it is considered that the levels would be much lower in East Devon than this as the number of applications received for such large single storey extensions is quite small. Since the changes would not apply in AONB’s or Conservation Areas about 70% of the district would not be affected.

The report also suggests that a cost saving would be between £150 and £2470 per development depending on the level of information that would have been required to support a planning application.

In reality the developer would still have to produce drawings for the development for use by the builders and for building regulations so the only cost saving is surely the planning application fee which the government has just put up to £172 for a household extension. It is difficult to believe that this sum would prevent someone from carrying out a development.

Clearly there could be more significant cost savings for businesses since the fees for these applications would be higher and the likely levels of information needed would be higher. In terms of local authorities the report suggests that any loss in planning application work would be balanced by an increase in enquiries as to whether a development is permitted development. In East Devon the shift in work would be less significant since the majority of the district would not be affected.

When considering the impact on neighbours and communities, however the consultation only considers the amenity impact of the developments that would be permitted and does not consider whether communities should have a right to express their views on developments of the scale affected and have those considered by the local planning authority. This current right would clearly be
removed by the proposed changes.

The impact on the countryside and rural areas is only considered in relation to protected landscapes and does not consider the impact on the character and amenity of non-designated areas of countryside and also the potential impact of development in these areas on the attractiveness of these areas for tourism and countryside pursuits.

The link to the development management committee agenda papers is HERE.  The relevant report is on page 30.

The meeting starts at 2pm on Tuesday 4 December and will be held in the council chamber, the Knowle, Sidmouth.