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The Debate Pack has been updated to take into account the publication on 7 February 2017 of the following:

Focus of the debate

John Penrose MP, who secured this debate, has indicated that the focus of it will be about making it easier for urban property owners to build up to the level of other buildings in the same block without needing planning permission. Mr Penrose has campaigned on this issue since 2013 and has argued that relaxing planning rules would make homes more affordable given the opportunity to increase supply, protect the environment by reducing the pressure to build on greenfield sites and help to regenerate town centres.[1]

Consultation proposals for upward extensions in London

Under current planning rules, full planning permission must be sought for extensions which increase the height of buildings. In the HM Treasury’s July 2015 Productivity Plan, Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, the Government proposed to remove the need for planning permission, in London, for upwards extensions for a limited number of stories up to the height of an adjoining building. This would only apply where neighbouring residents did not object. In cases where objections were received, the application would be considered in the normal way, focussed on the impact on the amenity to neighbours.[2] The aim of this was stated as to “reduce the need to ‘build out’, helping to provide homes for Londoners while protecting the countryside.”

On 18 February 2016 the Government published a consultation on Upward extensions in London in conjunction with then Mayor of London. Three mechanisms were put forward to incentivise the use of upward extensions:

  • a new permitted development right;
  • local development orders; and
  • new London Plan policies.
  • These would not be mutually exclusive mechanisms and the consultation document indicated they could work together.

A government response to the consultation was published on 7 February 2017, alongside the housing white paper, Fixing our broken housing market. The Government’s response confirmed its support for the consultation principle of upward extensions:

We welcome the support for the principle of upward extensions to existing premises to provide more homes in London. The responses have confirmed that there is potential to deliver more homes by increasing densities on brownfield land. It is clear that building up has a role to play in meeting the need for new homes across the country, not just in London, and the Housing White Paper proposes a package of measures to support building at higher densities and using land more efficiently for development. Our intention is therefore to take forward the policy option through the National Planning Policy Framework to support the delivery of additional homes by building up.[3]

A new permitted development right

Permitted development rights allow for development to take place without the need to obtain full planning permission. On the new permitted development right, the consultation document proposed that its use should be conditional on new self-contained additional housing units being provided. It also set out restrictions about how far upwards the new permitted development right would allow extensions to buildings to go:

2.9 We are proposing a new permitted development right in London to allow additional storeys to be built on an existing building, up to the height of an adjoining roofline. We propose that the new right could provide for up to two additional storeys to be added to an existing building, where the roofline of the adjoining premises is a minimum of two storeys taller (see paragraph 3.6 – 3.8 below). A single storey could be added where the roofline of the adjoining premises is one storey taller. This will help to manage the impact of the development on the area.

2.10 We are proposing that a permitted development right could apply where the development would be above a range of uses, such as existing residential use, both flats and houses, retail and other high street uses, and offices.

The consultation document proposed there would be a neighbour consultation requirement:

2.11 We are proposing that a permitted development right could provide for a neighbour consultation scheme, similar to that introduced in May 2013 for the permitted development right for larger single storey rear extensions to dwelling houses. This could provide an opportunity for neighbours to comment on the development proposals, including on the impact on the amenity of their property. Amenity is a long-established concept in planning, and may include matters such as light, privacy and overlooking. Only where neighbours raise objections would the Local Planning authority have to consider the impact of the proposed development on their amenity.

2.12 Prior approval could also allow for consideration of other impacts of a permitted development at a local level. As well as the standard matters associated with permitted development rights for change of use to residential use, it may include matters such as space standards to ensure the quality of the development, and method and hours of construction.

Under the proposals the new permitted development right would not apply in a number of protected areas including to listed buildings, and sites of special scientific interest.

Local development orders

A Local Development Order (LDO) is a tool to allow a Local Planning Authority to introduce new permitted development rights. An LDO is made by a local planning authority and gives a grant of planning permission to specific types of development within a defined area. They streamline the planning process by removing the need for developers to make a planning application to a local planning authority

In the consultation it was proposed that London boroughs could use existing powers to bring forward LDOs which would grant planning permission for upward extensions in specific areas.

London Plan policies

The consultation document also proposed that the Mayor of London could bring forward new planning policies to support additional storeys for new dwellings when reviewing the London Plan. “This could be linked to existing policies for areas of intensification, including town centres, already set out in the London Plan.”[4]

Upward extensions outside of London

In the March Budget 2016 the Government announced that “following the consultation on building up in London and to help increase densities on brownfield land and reduce the need to ‘build out’, the government will consult with city regions on extending similar powers as part of devolution deals.”[5]

On 7 February 2017 the Government published its housing white paper, Fixing our broken housing market. The white paper contains proposals to amend planning policy in respect of addressing the scope for where buildings can be extended upwards:

1.53 To help ensure that effective use is made of land, and building on its previous consultations, the Government proposes to amend the National Planning Policy Framework to make it clear that plans and individual development proposals should:

    • make efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities where there is a shortage of land for meeting identified housing requirements;
    • address the particular scope for higher-density housing in urban locations that are well served by public transport (such as around many railway stations); that provide scope to replace or build over low-density uses (such as retail warehouses, lock-ups and car parks); or where buildings can be extended upwards by using the ‘airspace’ above them;
    • ensure that the density and form of development reflect the character, accessibility and infrastructure capacity of an area, and the nature of local housing needs; and
    • take a flexible approach in adopting and applying policy and guidance that could inhibit these objectives in particular circumstances; for example, avoiding a rigid application of open space standards if there is adequate provision in the wider area

    1.54 The Government would welcome ideas on how planning policy can further encourage more innovative uses of land in areas of high housing need, including considering new permitted development rights. Consultation questions are set out in the annex.[6]

    The consultation question annex to the white paper asks:

    What are your views on the potential for delivering additional homes through more intensive use of existing public sector sites, or in urban locations more generally, and how this can best be supported through planning (using tools such as policy, local development orders, and permitted development rights)?[7]

    Response to upward extension proposals

    The Government’s response to the Upward extensions in London consultation summarises the consultation responses but does not publish them in full. It sets out that respondents were supportive of the principle of building up to deliver more homes but there were mixed views about the proposed mechanisms to do so.[8]

    Some of the responses published on online provide further information about this mixture of views.

    For example, the Planning Officers Society response is that it “cannot support this proposal at all.” It has argued that there is little evidence that planning permission is a hurdle for such extensions, that upward extensions are often very challenging structurally, and that their appearance would impact on the built environment.[9]

    The Government’s advisor on historic environment matters, Historic England, raised concerns that the new permitted development right could lead to unsustainable development and would be detrimental to the quality of London’s historic environment because the type of building the right would apply to is “ill-defined and likely to be ill-suited to delivering additional residential units.“[10]

    In contrast, the British Property Federation (BPF) welcomed the proposals stating that “it will help developers to think more innovatively and efficiently about the space above shops, offices and other residential property”. It did however, note that it is “unlikely to deliver a significant amount of new homes.”[11]

    The Council of Mortgage Lenders agreed that building upward on existing premises could be a viable option to increase housing supply. It highlighted, however, a need to consider and monitor impacts including on the value of the new property (and the sustainability of that value) and also the value of existing properties beneath, which “is particularly relevant where those properties are mortgaged.”[12]

    Other low cost housing issues

    For further information about other low cost housing issues and policies see Library briefing papers:

    The Library has also developed a housing supply statistics tool which allows users to view and compare local-level housing information. It aims to answer questions such as:

    • How much social housing is there in my area?
    • How many new homes were built in my area last year, and how does this compare with other local authorities?
    • How many new affordable homes have been provided near me?

    [1]     John Penrose MP website, Build Up Not Out [downloaded on 1 February 2017]

    [2]     HM Treasury, Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, July 2015, paras 9.20 and 9.21

    [3]     HM Government, Summary of responses to the technical consultation on implementation of planning changes, consultation on upward extensions and Rural Planning Review Call for Evidence, 7 February 2017, para 9.10

    [4]     HM Government, Upward extensions in London, 18 February 2016, para 2.19

    [5]     HM Government, Budget 2016, 16 March 2016, para 2.289

    [6]     HM Government, Fixing our broken housing market, 7 February 2017

    [7]     HM Government, Fixing our broken housing market, 7 February 2017

    [8]     HM Government, HM Government, Summary of responses to the technical consultation on implementation of planning changes, consultation on upward extensions and Rural Planning Review Call for Evidence, 7 February 2017, para 9.2

    [9]     Planning Officers’ Society, POS response to consultation on upward extensions in London, April 2016

    [10]    Historic England, DCLG and Mayor of London consultation on upward extensions in London Historic England Submission, 15 April 2016

    [11]    British Property Federation, Upward extension proposals will encourage “innovation and efficiency” in the capital, 18 February 2016

    [12]    Council of Mortgage Lenders, CML response to DCLG consultation on upward extensions in London, 7 April 2016


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