Should PDR be permitted after all?

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Calls for the reform, review or even extension of permitted development rights are prompting a reevaluation of the policy’s effect

The modern planning system is rooted in the response of Victorian social reformers to the slum neighbourhoods that emerged in British cities during the Victorian era. More than a century later, many fear that similar conditions are being replicated not by accident this time but by design.

These concerns centre around housing being developed under the so called Permitted Development Right (PDR). Traditionally this mechanism has been used to enable minor works to be carried out, such as home extensions, for which a full-blown planning permission was judged to be disproportionate. But the humble PDR has become a political football since ministers extended their use to carrying out much larger developments, such as converting office blocks and storage sheds into housing, with the goal of boosting housing supply by making the planning process easier.

However, amid concerns about their misuse and abuse, Labour’s housing spokesman John Healey vowed last week to scrap the use of PDRs to convert commercial buildings into housing. What impact would scrapping PDR conversion have on efforts to boost housing supply? And does Labour’s new stance show that this particular drive to liberalise the planning system has reached its high water mark?

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