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On 17 March 2020, the Government announced that it would relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. The Government said it would through secondary legislation allow the temporary change of use of a pub (A4 – drinking establishment) or a restaurant (A3 – restaurants and cafes) to a hot-food take away for a period of up to 12 months only.  

This change to permitted development rights (PDRs) was introduced in The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 (SI 2020/330) and applies between 24 March 2020 and 23 March 2021.   In some circumstances, local planning authorities can suspend PDRs in their area, under Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, but this new temporary PDR is exempt from that provision: Article 3 of the 2020 Order excludes the new PDR from the provisions in article 4(1) of the General Permitted Development Order, so preventing a local authority and the Secretary of State from directing that development permitted by this Order is not to apply in relation to a specified area.  The Explanatory Note provides more information. 

Government support for businesses during the coronavirus outbreak is discussed at more length in the Commons Library briefing Coronavirus: support for businesses (CBP 8847). Other briefings are available from the Coronavirus hub

What are permitted development rights?  

Permitted development rights (PDRs) are rights to make certain changes to a building without the need to apply for planning permission. They derive from a general planning permission granted by Parliament, rather than from permission granted by the local planning authority (LPA). Before some PDRs can be used, the developer must first obtain “prior approval” in relation to specified aspects of the development from the LPA.

Some PDRs cover building operations, such as home extensions, whereas others cover change of use of buildings. Change of use PDRs, such as office to residential conversion, are covered in another Commons Library briefing, Planning: change of use (CBP 01301, 9 May 2019) and so, to minimise repetition, are not discussed at length here.

Removing PDRs

In some circumstances LPAs can suspend PDRs in their area, under Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.

Changes since 2013

In May 2013 changes came into force to allow permitted development for home extensions; to increase the size limits for the depth of single-storey domestic extensions from 4m to 8m (for detached houses) and from 3m to 6m (for all other houses), in non-protected areas, for a period of three years. A neighbour consultation scheme on new extensions was introduced by the then Government in response to concerns about the original proposals. This temporary permitted development was extended until May 2019 and the Government has announced that it will be made permanent.

From 15 April 2015, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 consolidated and revoked the previous 1995 legislation relating to permitted development in England. It also introduced a number of new PDRs, including the provision of click-and-collect services by shops and enabling greater use of non-domestic properties to provide renewable energy.

Changes were also made in November 2016 to allow for taller mobile masts in a bid to boost mobile connectivity.

What next? Future changes

The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2017 general election indicated that non-fracking drilling would be made permitted development. The consultation on permitted development for shale gas exploration ran from 19 July 2018 to 25 October 2018 and invited views on creating a PDR for non-hydraulic shale gas exploration development in England. The consultation document stated it would only apply to non-hydraulic fracturing operations to take core samples for testing purposes and would not allow injection of any fluids for the purposes of hydraulic fracturing. The responses to the consultation are being analysed.

In October 2018, the Government launched a consultation on supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes by (amongst other things) increasing PDRs. It proposed to

  • Allow greater change of use to support high streets to adapt and diversify, to facilitate more leisure and community uses (such as gyms, libraries and health care) and office use as well as homes
  • Remove the existing PDR for the installation of, and advertising on, new public call boxes
  • Increase size limits for off-street electric vehicle charging points
  • Make permanent two time-limited PDRs relating to change of use from storage or distribution to residential use and larger single-storey rear extensions to houses.

In a Written Statement in March 2019, the Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, confirmed that the Government intended to go ahead with these reforms to PDRs, as proposed in the October 2018 consultation, although the time-limited PDR for change of use from storage to residential would not be extended beyond 10 June 2019.

The Government response to the October 2018 consultation was published in May 2019.

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