January 2017: Developers will be interested in two recent cases:

  • In the first, the High Court held that if a residential basement involves engineering operations amounting to a “separate activity of substance”, express planning permission from the local planning authority is required. The basement will not be permitted development under class A, Part 1, Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015/596).
  • In the second, the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (UT) exercised its discretion to modify restrictive covenants that prevented building on the burdened land. The developer had built properties intended for social housing on that land, knowing that this was in breach of covenant. The houses overlooked the benefitting land, which was being developed as a hospice for terminally ill children. In exercising its discretion, the UT found that the loss of privacy to the owners of the benefitting land was outweighed by the public interest in housing families in need of affordable accommodation, some of whom may have been waiting for a very long time to be housed. Money was adequate compensation for the loss of the private rights enjoyed by the benefitting land.

December 2015: The government has recently announced the introduction of a permanent permitted development right for change of use from class B1(a) (offices) to class C3 (dwelling houses) from May 2016.

This will replace the existing temporary right, which applies from 30 May 2013 to 30 May 2016. Under the temporary right, almost 4,000 office to residential conversions were given the go ahead from April 2014 to June 2015.

Permanent office to residential permitted development right: The government has confirmed that:

  • Those who already have prior approval or who secure permission will have three years to complete the change of use
  • The rights will, in future, allow the demolition of office buildings and new building for residential use. This will be subject to limitations and the local planning authority’s (LPA) prior approval. The government will provide further details
  • New permitted development rights will enable the change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to residential use. This will be subject to the LPA’s prior approval and the government will provide further details

The content of this update is for information only and does not constitute legal advice. It states the law as at January 2017. We recommend that specific professional advice is obtained on any particular matter. We do not accept responsibility for any loss arising as a result of the use of the information contained in this briefing.