Government relaxes planning rules

OCS is concerned about the possible impact.

7 August 2020

Shopping streetOn 21 July, the Government announced an extension to permitted development rights (PDR), which allows a range of building types (including offices, shops and warehouses) to be converted into housing without planning permission. A second relaxation of the rules will mean that applications by homeowners to add two-storey extensions to existing buildings will be fast-tracked through the planning system.

Although Oxford is well-known to be short of housing, especially affordable housing, Oxford Civic Society has misgivings about what this might mean for our city. Converting buildings which have outlived their current usefulness into desperately needed housing is an attractive idea and, since Oxford comes at the top of the list of unaffordable places to live, this might look like a welcome initiative. But it is essential that any such work meets acceptable quality criteria for residential occupation in terms of space and amenity. It is hard to see how this can be guaranteed without rigorous scrutiny of any plans.

We are also concerned about what easing the criteria for two-storey extensions might lead to. The government has specified a requirement carefully to consider the impact on neighbours and the appearance of the extension, and we hope the City Council will exercise the maximum discretion here. Listed buildings and Conservation Areas enjoy special protections, but the authorities have a duty to ensure that residents in all areas of our city enjoy an attractive built environment and are protected from inappropriate developments.

Other Civic Societies around the country have expressed similar reservations.