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‘Slums’ warning over extending PD rights

22 July 2020

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) is among a group of construction professional bodies to express concern to housing secretary Robert Jenrick about an extension of permitted development rights (PDR), which they warned could lead to the construction of “future slums”.

The CIOB, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), which together represent 175,000 skilled professionals, wrote to Jenrick to urge him not to consider PDRs, which involve automatic permissions for the conversion of office spaces to housing, without being subject to “clear space, building and design standards”.

The letter read: “You will no doubt be aware of the comments of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, who concluded that PDRs had inadvertently created ‘future slums’. Automatic permissions for the conversion of office spaces to housing, without requirements relating to quality, size, sustainability and design, has led to spaces detrimental to the wellbeing of residents.

“We are concerned that further PDRs, including the ability to demolish and rebuild on existing sites — if implemented without significant safeguards—will lock in more unacceptable standard development, the consequences of which we will live with for generations or must rectify later at greater expense.”

The letter went on to welcome a recent move to require natural light in homes created from office conversions but added: “This situation should never have arisen and homes without windows, as well as other egregious examples of such poor quality living conditions, must never be allowed to happen again”.

And it expressed concern about how other announcements related to PDRs would be implemented, including:

  • Extra storeys on residential building without the need for planning permission
  • Demolition of empty buildings if replaced with residential, without the need for planning permission
  • Further reforms to use class orders, to expand the commercial buildings that can be repurposed to residential without planning permission

The letter concluded: “While we stand ready to advise on how to create the best possible outcomes under a PDR regime, we strongly urge proactive rather than reactive planning of this sort for the built environment. A longer term, more sustainable solution would look at interventions earlier in the building process, rather than retrofitting buildings that are fundamentally not suitable as housing. The creation of buildings which are properly suited to undergo various different uses during their lifetime would be preferable to the change of use of buildings which are not suited and which need proper conversion.”

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