New Light and Space PDRs for Landlords

New homes delivered through permitted development rights must meet minimum light and space standards, says Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. 

The government wants to stop developers from building homes that are too small and lack natural lighting. The tone of main target of the policy is private landlords developing new homes from former commercial buildings in town and city centres. 

Permitted development rights (PDR) fast-track the planning process for developers by allowing them to convert existing buildings to homes without applying for full planning permission.

Meeting national standards

The new measures will ensure all new homes must comply with the Nationally Described Space Standard. The standard demands a single bedroom for one person must have a floor area of at least 39 square metres if the home has a bathroom or 37 square metres if the space has a shower room. 

Jenrick explained that the PDR standard removes floor space rules imposed by local authorities, and he added that the change is aimed at stopping developers from providing too small accommodation. The new measure adds to a recent PDR standard that requires all rooms must have adequate natural light – which means a window in each habitable room.

Skirting the planning process

“Permitted Development Rights are helping to deliver new homes and making an important contribution to our economic recovery from the pandemic, supporting our high streets by encouraging the regeneration of disused buildings and boosting our housing industry to safeguard the jobs of builders, plumbers and electricians,” said the housing secretary. 

“The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of having somewhere secure and comfortable to live. While most developers deliver good homes and do the right thing, I’m tackling the minority of developers abusing the system by announcing that new homes delivered will have to meet space standards.”

The living space and natural light PDRs will apply to other new home planning changes that allow developers to convert buildings and add extensions to existing homes without going through the entire planning process in England.

PDR for converting disused buildings to homes

This PDR applies to empty or unused buildings with a floor area of up to 1000 square metres developed as flats or a single home. The rule lets developers demolish and rebuild the property as homes providing the new building is:

  • Within the original building’s footprint
  • No more than 18 metres high, including increasing the height by no more than two floors

Buildings for redevelopment into homes must date before 1990 and should have been empty for at least six months.

PDR for extending homes

This PDR applies to existing homes and allows developers to:

  • Add two storeys to a block of flats already at least three floors high to a maximum height of 30 metres. The original building must date between 1948 and 2018
  • Add two storeys to a two-storey house to create new homes or extend an existing home. The extensions can be up to 18 metres high but no more than 3.5 metres above the highest part of the terrace or adjoining semi-detached house.
  • Add an extra storey on top of a single-storey home
  • Add two storeys to a semi-commercial terrace – flats or maisonettes over shops. The extensions can be up to 18 metres high but no more than 3.5 metres above the highest part of the terrace
  • Add one storey to a single-storey terrace building, which can either be commercial or mixed residential use
  • Add two storeys to a standalone commercial property that is at least three floors high to a maximum height of 30 metres

PDR restrictions

Besides only applying in England, the PDR rights do not apply in conservation areas, national parks, listed buildings and other designated neighbourhoods. Developers must follow prior approval planning rules over the new building’s appearance and materials and keep to building and fire safety regulations.

What do the new rules mean to landlords?

Although the new PDRs offer landlords scope to extend their properties, following the new rules is not as easy as it might seem. PDRs only impact the planning aspect of development, and the prospect of dealing with third parties objecting to any plans is still there – especially if the property is already home to tenants.

Landlords will also have to unleash their lawyers to investigate if PDRs have been reserved. Light also becomes an issue, and the new development must consider light into the property and eclipse natural light for neighbours when building upwards. 

The goal for landlords is to increase rental income and the value of their properties – but this will put prices up for canny sellers who realise that prior approval for an extension will push up the value of their home.

Permitted Development Rights 2020 FAQ

The government has introduced the new PDR rules in a piecemeal fashion, making them confusing to interpret. 

For landlords, here are the answers to some of the most asked questions about the rule changes.

What are permitted development rights?

Permitted development rights (PDR) allow property owners to carry out minor works without applying for full planning permission. The rights differ for houses, commercial buildings and flats or maisonettes.

Can planners withdraw permitted development rights?

Yes. Local planners can invoke an Article 4 direction that removes a permitted development right for a certain neighbourhood, like a home in a conservation area. If the owners want to work on the property, they must apply for full planning permission.

Do the new PDR light and space rules apply to HMOs?

The new rules allow developers to change the use of properties without full planning permission. A house in multiple occupation is Class C4 and remains unaffected by the new PDRs, so in most cases, any HMO conversion would require planning permission, but it’s best to check with planners to get the lie of the land.

 Click here for a list of planning classes and the type of property they cover following the September 2020 PDR changes.

How do landlords trigger permitted development rights?

Permitted Development Rights apply to small, common projects and work on the assumption that full planning permission would be granted for the work. Developers should discuss their project with local planners before breaking ground to ensure they do not need prior or full approval.

At the end of the project, developers can request a lawful development certificate from planners which confirms any works meet the national PDR guidelines.

View Related Handbook Page

Planning Control

Planning approval is essentially about controlling the use of land and is required to alter, extend or change the use of existing properties, or to make changes to a listed building or to a property in a conservation area