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Let There Be Light

22nd September 2021

We are currently examining a deal ripe for redevelopment under the new permitted development rules.

Planning under permitted development is not really planning, in the sense that it is a legislation set up by central government to short cut the red tape surrounding planning.  If certain requirements are met, the permission has to be granted within 56 days.

This has been around for many many years now, but it has reincarnated into varying forms.  The popular office to residential conversion which is now pretty much common knowledge falls under this category.  This, at one point, got so popular there was a shortage of office space, and so it became more lucrative to deflate to back to its original usage class, even though the developer had spent money and time to gain planning for residential conversion; the latest one being classed as MA which came in 1st August 2021.

This class has a criterion of requirement for adequate natural light to be provided for all proposed flats.  The site we are examining seems land locked to the rear, and therefore the only way to provide light is through roof lights, as the rear commercial is only on the ground floor.

One of the interested investors who has some experience in developments translated this right of light as a need for a window.  This was based on something someone had said in a planning department; however, this is not what the legislation says, it says natural light and not outlook.

The problem with having new legislation, is it is untested practically.  However, the writing seems clear.  We have also had several of our planning consultants to confirm our understanding is the correct one.

However, it always prudent to have a couple of alternate strategies to keep in the inside pocket.  Even though one may be technically correct, sometimes from a commercial point of view it would be easier to go with the flow and short cut the process.

In order to bring natural light within the landlocked parcel, one can allow for a courtyard, this would not only allow natural light but also outlook as well; it will address the imagined issue.  Though, conversely, you will lose some square footage.

Permitted development can only be applied within the existing fabric of the building.  Therefore, there cannot be any alterations as part of the application.

There are a couple of ways to address this point: one is to apply for roof light first and then apply for permitted development once it has been granted.  The other is to have the applications running in parallel and have the PD approved subject to the planning for the roof light; the latter saves time and, therefore, money.  There is precedent to confirm this works.

The deal we are investigating has a very lucrative angle to it and we are confident of tackling the issues prior to acquisition.  The planning game requires one to present their case, as one might do in court. For example, if all the properties were to go to social housing tenants or key workers this would strengthen the probability of it going over the line more expediently.

If you have an appetite for such property deals, do get in touch.

Suresh Vagjiani

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