Judicial review of new permitted developments rights, which came into force yesterday, launched
Environmental campaigners have pushed ahead with a threatened judicial review of the government’s expansion of permitted development rights which come into effect yesterday.
The new permitted development rights, created through three separate statutory instruments, give developers the right to demolish commercial and residential buildings and rebuild them as homes, and to extend upwards existing homes, without applying for full planning permission. They also introduce a radical shake up of high-street planning rules which will make it easier to swap between different uses.
Campaign group Rights: Community: Action (RCA) said it was now pressing ahead with the legal challenge it threatened last month, and was pushing for a high court order immediately suspending the new rights while the review was considered, because of the “significant environmental consequences of these reforms”.
The new permitted development (PD) rights have been described as “disgraceful” by the Riba, given concerns over the quality of new homes approved under the PD process, such as Terminus House in Harlow (pictured, right). In July the expansion earned the government a rare joint rebuke from the professional institutions governing much of construction and development – the Riba, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Chartered Institute of Building and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
RCA claims the government has bypassed proper processes in bringing forward the new rights by ignoring consultation responses and its own expert advice, by failing to issue a further previously promised consultation, and by failing to carry out necessary environmental and equality impact assessments.
The government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission said the existing expanded use of PD had “inadvertently permission future slums”, while the government’s own assessment of the quality of homes produced by PD said they created worse homes “in relation to a number of factors widely linked to the health, wellbeing and quality of life of future occupiers.”
However, existing PD rights, such as to convert offices into homes, are credited with the creation of 60,000 homes since being brought in in 2013. Announcing the plans for a further expansion in July, housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured, left) said the changes were designed to deliver much-needed new homes and revitalise town centres across England by cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy.
After the majority of respondents to the government’s previous consultation on bringing in the demolition and rebuild PD rights opposed the scheme, the government said it would continue to explore the idea but would consult further before bringing anything in.
Introducing the expanded rights in July, the government said the reforms were part of a package that were “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War.” Despite this, the regulations were laid on the last day that parliament sat prior to recess, and came in to force yesterday, the day before parliament reconvened, meaning parliament has had no opportunity to scrutinise them.
Naomi Luhde-Thompson of RCA, said: “We believe these changes will have a phenomenally negative impact on the people and environment of towns and cities across England. That’s why we feel compelled to act so urgently.”
RCA has instructed law firm Leigh Day and Paul Brown QC and Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers to run the legal challenge.
The government has been contacted for comment.