Permitted development: replacing vacant buildings with new homes

Out-Law Guide | 03 Sep 2020 | 3:55 pm | 2 min. read

A new permanent permitted development right (PDR) in England will allow for the demolition of certain types of buildings to be replaced by new homes.

The 2020 Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order (the Regulations) amends the 2015 Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order (GPDO). The Regulations come into force on 31 August 2020.

The changes to the use classes are currently subject to judicial review. It is anticipated that the challenge will be heard during the period 8 – 15 October. This guide reflects the position before that hearing takes place.

New Class ZA allows for demolition of vacant and redundant, free-standing buildings in existence on 12 March 2020 which comprise:

  • a single, purpose-built detached block of flats; or
  • a single detached building established for office use, research and development use, industrial use or a combination, in each case falling within Class B1 of the Use Classes Order.

The demolished building can then be replaced by a single, purpose-built block of flats or a single detached dwelling house. The new residential building can be up to seven metres higher than the old building to provide up to a maximum of two additional storeys, within a final maximum height of 18m. A list of engineering and other operations permitted as part of the demolition and replacement is set out in the Regulations.

The right does not allow for the old building to be demolished separately, without the construction of a new building. Both the demolition and the new build must be completed within three years of the date of the grant of prior approval.

There are detailed conditions and limitations which must be met for the right to be available, and these must be considered carefully in each case. Criteria that must be satisfied in order to take advantage of the right include:

  • the land covered by, or in the curtilage of, the old building must not be occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless express consent is obtained from the landlord and tenant;
  • the land must not be in a conservation area or in the curtilage of a listed building;
  • the building to be demolished must have been built before 31 December 1989;
  • the footprint of the old building must not exceed 1,000 square metres. The new building must be within the footprint of the old building, although some re-positioning within the old footprint may be acceptable;
  • the old building must have been vacant for a period of at least six months immediately before the date of the application for prior approval; and
  • the right must not apply to part of a building or allow for the demolition of more than one building within the curtilage and in the incorporation of any additional footprint.

The new Class ZA permitted development right is subject to the prior approval of the local planning authority (LPA) on certain matters including the impact of the development on transport and highways; design and flood risk; impact of noise from other premises on residents; design and external appearance; adequacy of natural light in habitable rooms; impact on amenity of neighbouring premises; method of demolition; and the impact of demolition on heritage and archaeology.

In addition to the prior approval procedure set out under these Regulations, the applicant must provide specific drawings showing dimensions of the old and new buildings; detailed floor plans including the position of windows and proposed elevations; a construction management plan; and a heritage and archaeology statement.

Notification of the proposed development must be given to adjoining owners, and some consultation of statutory bodies will have to take place if needed. The LPA is required to determine the prior approval application within eight weeks. If no determination is made within that time period, there is a right of appeal to the secretary of state.