The proliferation of TV shows, such as Homes Under the Hammer, DIY SOS and Location, Location, Location, to name but a few, has really increased the amount of budding property developers in the UK, with bridging finance becoming a more popular route to fund these renovations.

A key component when taking on a development project is to understand the planning. Does a property require planning permission from the local council, or can you utilise Permitted Development Rights? The Planning Portal states, ‘most planning applications are decided within eight weeks…’, unless they are complex whereby this time can extend for a further 5 weeks. However, a piece written by Urbanist Architecture in March 2022 confirmed that these timings are targets and that many councils were taking longer to make the decision to accept or decline planning decisions. Add onto this the current economic impact that is affecting the cost of materials, and the time that a planning application takes, all of which could directly hit both experienced and budding developers in the pocket.

In comparison, Permitted Development Rights (PDR) is essentially a scheme created by the government, that allows you to either extend/renovate your home or convert certain commercial property to residential (Use Class MA and G), without the need for a full planning application. A time saver, however more understanding is required on what you can and cannot do under PDR.

Although PDR aims to simplify the process of getting planning approval, you still do need to submit an application to gain approval, and importantly it isn’t a guarantee you will be accepted. The local authority can still take into account things like the impact on roads or nearby commercial premises. Also, anyone looking to convert a standard residential home (C3 use class) to an HMO in certain areas of the country like Birmingham, Salford, or Southampton (to name a few), will have discovered that the local authorities have applied Article 4 exemptions, which means PDR does not apply.

Confusing? Yes. Worth exploring opportunities as a developer? Yes!

PDR has matured since its introduction with some recent examples of significant changes that present opportunities to property developers. In 2020, when the world was gripped by COVID 19, the UK government announced changes to the planning system, including a new use class. Class E amalgamated a lot of high street commercial property types including shops, offices, and restaurants, into one single use class – which allows flexibility to change the use of the commercial property without the need for planning (i.e., a café into a shop, or office into a café etc).

Further developments in August 2021 meant that Class E properties could be converted to residential under permitted development. This was a huge change and unlocked so many opportunities for developers who needed to move fast. The developer under the new Class MA rules only needed to apply through a 56-day prior approval process. The government introduced this to encourage vacant commercial (the Class E commercial needed to have been vacant for 3 months before applying for prior approval) property conversions and reduce the gap in the number of dwellings being developed vs yearly targets, whilst also attracting more people to live closer to the high street and promote the area for work and leisure. In an ever-changing high street this will help cement town centres in the heart of the community.

Other opportunities for property professionals come under the ‘Right to Rise’ – where instead of ‘building out’, the government has encouraged ‘building up’. Developers are now able to add two storey extensions to blocks of flats and even some commercial or mixed commercial properties.

Written by Jamie Pritchard, Sales Director at Glenhawk.