The delivery of housing through Permitted Development (PD) rights plays an important part in the Government's commitment to providing new homes. Consent for these homes is obtained through a lighter prior approval process, dispensing with the need for a full planning application. This allows for the faster delivery of new housing and a resourceful approach to the use of existing buildings, as they are converted to dwelling houses to meet demand.
However, in some cases, this lighter approval process has resulted in exploitation by developers who fail to meet space standards.
A new Nationally Described Space Standard came into force on 6 April 2021 by an amendment to Article 3 of the General Permitted Development Order 2015. In order to provide a proper living space for a sole occupier, any new one bedroom flat with a shower room must have a minimum of 37 square metres of floorspace (39 square metres if there is a bathroom). This Space Standard follows another reform to make certain that PD homes receive enough natural light.
As echoed by Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the importance of space standards to provide secure and comfortable living conditions.
A recent decision of a planning inspector who found for Leicester City Council highlights the need for space standards. The inspector dismissed an appeal against the refusal for prior approval to convert a chip shop to a dwelling house under PD rights.
The developer proposed to convert part of the ground floor of the chip shop into three self-contained flats. Each flat would vary in size from only 7.7 square metres to 9 square metres. The bed would be raised to enable a dining area to fit underneath it, and a toilet would be separated from the living space by a curtain.
The lack of space for furniture, storage, cooking, food preparation and modest personal possessions, whilst still allowing space to move around, led the planning inspector to conclude that the flats could not qualify as dwelling houses. An outdoor communal storage area for the flats was not enough to persuade the inspector that the development should receive approval.