Extending permitted development rights can be a cause for celebration
The extension of permitted development rights to convert offices into residential buildings has not been universally popular. When it comes to airspace developments, however, we should recognise the benefits, says Aaron Emmett
Changes to permitted development rights (PDR) as a means of increasing housing output and addressing the crisis in housing supply, on face value make sense.
The need for more homes is acute and where an opportunity to increase the size, or change the purpose, of an existing building occurs, it would appear prudent to do so if it creates no adverse effect.
And that’s exactly where the problem has been. All too often, the boundaries of what is “permitted” are stretched to their limits; the use of a building is changed without due consideration to its local impact; or simply the assumed ease of extending or altering a building allows cowboys to operate.
So, when it was confirmed that the further widening of permitted development rights would allow for upward extensions to go ahead, it’s understandable why it was met with both celebration and concern.
This isn’t simply a case of Nimbyism. We’ve all heard about commercial units being converted to residential usage where design and build standards have left much to be desired; of the negative impact that introducing residential units to the heart of a commercial and retail area has had on businesses who’ve been required to curtail the way they operate; or simply of the blatant mismatch between need and delivery.
“Let’s not forget that the extension of PDR hasn’t erased the need for thorough and well thought through planning applications”
As permitted development rights have been eased, and the supposed safety net of the planning process has been reined in, all of the above have occurred, to a greater or lesser extent. This won’t, however, be the case with the further extension to include airspace development.
Airspace development is an area of construction requiring specialist skills, experience and in-depth understanding of the complexities that such development is laden with.
Whilst utilising modern methods of off-site construction means that there is relatively little on-site disruption, the fact that the installation process requires significant planning from a logistics perspective means that this simply can’t be an area of development that will welcome all-comers. Special consideration relating to road closures, over-sailing during the crane lift, specialist structural surveys of the existing building and preparation of the roof, are all vital steps to ensuring that an airspace development is completed on time, safely and to a standard that is going to appeal to those who invest in the resultant properties.
It is also a means of construction firmly rooted in specialist design. An airspace project is heavily design-led from the outset and the manufacturing process only commences once we are sure that the homes have been designed so that people will be proud to live in them, we will be proud to have delivered them and, importantly, they’re complementary to the local area.
Let’s not forget, too, that the extension of PDR hasn’t erased the need for thorough and well thought through planning applications; that is all still part of the process, it is just that now there are new parameters within which those applications will be reviewed.
The door simply hasn’t been left wide open for cowboys to enter – and companies that have learned to deliver good quality homes atop existing buildings while operating under the auspices of the planning process have a wealth of experience and won’t simply disappear just because PDR has been relaxed. Airspace development has a huge role to play in increased housing delivery and that is why the latest changes to PDR must be celebrated, not feared.
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