DCLG Consultation on Upwards Extensions in London

DCLG Consultation on Upwards Extensions in London

The government has started a consultation on making it easier for developers and homeowners to increase the height of their buildings (by a maximum of two storeys) to match the height of an adjoining building.

The consultation document can be found here.

It reflects government concern to increase housing supply – the new floors must be used as self-contained flats. The London Plan sets out a target of 49,000 new homes per year to help meet an acute shortage of affordable homes. According to the DCLG consultation paper, less than 2% of new supply is being provided by the erection of additional floors above existing buildings. It is hoped that upwards extensions will allow increased densities in previously developed, sustainable locations without encroaching on the green belt or countryside.

The proposals were recently covered in an article on mailonline.co.uk, and featured comments on the proposals from Martin Gaine, Just Planning’s Chief Executive. The full article can be read here.

The consultation document puts forward three different options for consideration. The first, and most likely, outcome is expanded permitted development rights, similar to the office-to-residential permitted development rights introduced in 2013. An application for ‘prior approval’ would be required, with councils considering the likely impact on neighbours. There would be no restrictions on the size or quality of accommodation provided in the new residential units themselves.

The second possibility is encouraging local councils to introduce local development orders, designed to meet their particular needs. It seems unlikely that George Osborne will support a proposal that does not oblige all councils to introduce specific proposals.

A third option is to amend the London Plan, the strategic planning document for London, to provide explicit planning support for ‘additional storeys for new dwellings’.

At Just Planning, we have mixed views on the new proposals. It is likely to lead to a modest increase in new housing, though for smaller flats than average (not subject to the usual minimum floor areas in the London Plan). It further rips up existing planning policies and processes, though it is not clear that councils are unreasonably resisting the erection of new storeys on existing buildings. The main concern is that councils will have no influence over the design and appearance of the additional floors (apart from on heritage buildings) and some unpleasant additions may be made to existing buildings.

The proposals also add complexity to the planning system. The prior approval process is now established as a third pillar of the planning system (alongside planning permissions and conventional permitted development).

Whatever the outcome, Just Planning is ready to advise its clients on how best to navigate the new regulations. Keep an eye on our news and blog page for the latest update on the consultation and contact us directly for free initial advice on your project.