Generally it is up to a local planning authority to decide whether to allow a particular development or not. However, in England and Wales, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 enables central government to permit certain types of developments known as permitted developments.
These are generally minor changes to existing properties. Permitted developments do not require approval from the local planning authority as permission is granted by the Order.
Examples of permitted developments are:
- Certain enlargements or alterations to houses (not exceeding 50% of the curtilage).
- Provision of certain pet enclosures, sheds and fuel storage containers (not exceeding 50% of the curtilage).
- Certain porches, doors and windows.
- Installation of antenna and satellite dishes (up to specified sizes).
- Gates, fences, walls and other enclosures (no more than 2m high).
- The provision of certain hard surfaces and means of access to a highway.
- Installation and alterations to certain chimneys.
- The installation of cctv for security purposes.
- Exterior painting (other than advertisements).
- Internal alterations.
- Certain microgeneration equipment.
- Certain changes of use class.
- Temporary structures and plant for construction purposes.
- Temporary structures remaining for no more than 28 days.
- Works by certain statutory authorities.
- Building operations consisting of the demolition of a building
There are a great number of complex and detailed restrictions and conditions on each of these permitted development classes. NB See Planning Portal: Permitted development for householders for detailed guidance for householders.
There are further restrictions for certain areas and building types:
- Listed buildings.
- Conservation areas.
- National parks.
- Areas of outstanding natural beauty.
- The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.
There may also be conditions on existing permissions preventing certain types of development.
- Specific issues to do with agricultural land, such as the purpose, siting and design of agricultural buildings as well as the construction of a private way, the siting of excavation or deposit or the siting and appearance of tanks.
- Similar issues for land used for the purposes of forestry.
- Erection of plant, machinery, buildings, or structures on land used as a mine.
- The demolition of a building.
- Siting and appearance of telecommunications masts.
See prior approval for more information.
This means that establishing whether a proposal constitutes a permitted development or not is considerably more complicated than it may at first seem. Often the best way to determine whether a development is permitted or not is to ask the local planning authority. This can be done by asking for a ‘lawful development certificate’ for which a fee will be charged.
 Policy changes
In May 2013, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013 came into force, making changes to permitted development rights. These amendments include making it easier to change between certain use classes, and permitting larger extensions to domestic and commercial premises. Some of these amendments permit development only with prior approval of certain aspects or beyond certain sizes.
Following this amendment, some local authorities have introduced article 4 directions, in particular to prevent change of use class from office to residential use. It has yet to be seen whether the Secretary of State will allow these directions to stand.
Further changes are proposed to permitted development rights, to give greater flexibility to changes of use, allowing:
- Shops and financial and professional services to change use to a dwelling house.
- Existing buildings used for agricultural purposes of up to 150 square metres to change to residential use.
- Retail uses to change to banks and building societies only.
- Premises used as offices, hotels, residential and non-residential institutions, and leisure and assembly to be able to change use to nurseries providing childcare.
- A building used for agricultural purposes of up to 500 square metres to be used as a new state funded school or a nursery providing childcare.
However, following concerns that there would be a spate of agricultural building conversions in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, Planning Minister Nick Boles stated:
“...the intention behind the proposed permitted developed right is to bring forward more housing on land that is already developed, and to make maximum use of the buildings that our ancestors saw fit to build, so that we do not have to put up any more buildings on green fields than is necessary to meet our housing and other needs....I recognise, however, and the Government recognise, that national parks and AONBs are so called for a reason and have a special status. It is a status we must respect, and it is important that we think hard and listen to the arguments put to us about the appropriateness of this measure in those areas." ref Hansard 26 February 2014.
In March 2014, the Chancellor’s 2014 budget announced a further review of the General Permitted Development Order, to create ‘…a three-tier system to decide the appropriate level of permission, using permitted development rights for small-scale changes, prior approval rights for development requiring consideration of specific issues, and planning permission for the largest scale development.’
He also announced fresh consultation to assess:
- Specific change of use measures, permitting greater flexibility for change of use to residential use, from warehouses, light industry structures and certain sui generis buildings (buildings that do not fall into any one use class, such as theatres, multiple occupation houses, scrap yards and so on).
- Allowing greater flexibilities to change facilities such as car parks and loading bays and non-retail facilities.
- Creating a much wider ‘retail’ use class, excluding betting shops and payday loan shops.
On 31 July 2014, Brandon Lewis, newly-appointed Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), announced proposals to make the temporary permitted development rights that allow offices to be converted into new homes permanent. In 2016, The Department for Communities and Local Government then laid before Parliament regulations to make this permanent from 6 April 2016.
Lewis also proposed making it easier to convert empty and redundant buildings into new homes and to ensure planning conditions are cleared on time so that new homes that have planning permission can be built without delay. Ref DCLG, Making the planning system work more efficiently and effectively, Giving communities more power in planning local development, 31 July 2014.
In April 2016, the government published Permitted development rights for householders: technical guidance to help householders understand the detailed rules on permitted development and the terms used.
NB: Permitted development rights in Wales are different to those in England. See: The Town and Country (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (Wales) Order 2014.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Article 4 direction.
- Avoiding planning permission pitfalls.
- Building preservation notice.
- Certificate of immunity.
- Change of use class.
- Conservation area.
- Established use certificate.
- Houses in multiple occupation.
- Lawful development certificate.
- Listed building.
- Local development order.
- National planning policy framework.
- Planning enforcement.
- Planning permission.
- Prior approval.
- Section 215.
- Sui generis.
- Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order.
- Use class.
 External references
- Written statement to Parliament, Change of use: new homes, Planning Minister Nick, Boles 6 February 2014.
- Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.
- Home Building and Renovating: A Guide to Permitted Development Rules. November 2012.
- Very detailed guidance on what is and is not permitted by the Order is provided in the Planning Portal: Permitted development for householders.
- Planning Portal: Lawful development certificate.
- Communities and Local Government: Lawful Development Certificates: A User's Guide.
- Greater flexibilities for change of use: consultation.
- Hansard 26 February 2014.
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