We felt quite encouraged when the government announced changes to permitted development regulations from April 2021. The changes were intended to stimulate new development and increase the supply of affordable housing in the UK AND they seemed to set out minimum standards (i.e., minimum size and lighting) to ensure that new dwellings are suitable for people to actually live in. So, it was very disappointing to read an article published by the BBC recently, claiming that thousands of children are sharing beds due to overcrowding.
A quick recap of the changes to permitted development regulations that came into effect on April 2021
The changes to permitted development regulations that came into effect in April 2021 included several key amendments to existing rules governing the development of residential properties.
One of the most significant changes was the introduction of new rules allowing for the construction of up to two additional storeys on top of existing buildings without the need for full planning permission. Under the new rules, property owners can add up to two storeys to a detached building, or one storey to a semi-detached or terraced building, provided that certain conditions are met. These conditions include a maximum height limit of 18 meters, compliance with building regulations, and the provision of adequate outdoor space for residents.
Another change introduced in April 2021 was the extension of existing rules allowing for the conversion of commercial buildings into residential properties. Under the new rules, developers can convert a wider range of buildings, including office buildings and retail spaces, into residential properties without the need for full planning permission. However, there are limits on the size and location of such conversions, and certain conditions must be met to ensure that the resulting properties are safe and habitable.
Other changes to permitted development regulations introduced in April 2021 include the relaxation of rules governing the demolition and reconstruction of certain buildings, and the removal of requirements for the provision of affordable housing in some cases.
So, have the changes worked?
There has been significant debate since the changes to permitted development regulations were announced, with some arguing that they will help improve living space, while others contend that they will have a negative impact on the quality of housing. This debate has continued since the changes took effect – and it remains a deeply controversial topic still today.
One of the main changes to permitted development regulations in 2021 was the introduction of new rules that allow homeowners to add two additional storeys to their properties without needing to go through the full planning permission process. Supporters of this change argue that it has helped to increase the supply of affordable housing, particularly in areas where there is high demand for housing but limited space for new development.
However, critics of the regulations argue that they have led to a proliferation of poorly designed and cramped living spaces, with some developers taking advantage of the relaxed rules to create substandard housing.
Without knowing the history of the housing in which these families live, it is impossible to say whether the changes to permitted development regulations in 2021 have contributed to the substandard living standards of the families outlined in the BBC article. However, what is clear from this article, is that these sort of living conditions should not be prevalent in this day and age. We recently published A Short History of Town Planning in the UK – this highlighted that as a country, the UK has been prioritising the living standards of people for hundreds, if not thousands of years. So WHY, in 2023, are people still living in such sub-standard accommodation?
Overall, it is probably still too early to say definitively whether changes to permitted development regulations in 2021 have helped to improve living space. As with any major policy change, it will take time to assess the full impact of the new regulations on the quality of housing in the UK.
We published an article back in 2020 An end to “Rabbit Hutch” houses? when the Government announced permitted development regulations will set a minimum space standard from April 2021.
We have also published several articles about the UK housing crisis, which continues to be a pressing issue that shows little sign of improvement:
- Affordable Housing Emergency
- The UK Housing Crisis and its links to Town Planning
- The Housing Crisis – Why we need more social housing
Despite some efforts by the government and private sector to increase the supply of affordable housing, demand continues to outstrip supply, driving up house prices and leaving many people unable to find suitable housing. This situation has serious implications for the well-being of individuals, families, and communities, and it is crucial that all stakeholders work together to find effective solutions that can alleviate this crisis.