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Permitted Development Rights Explained

On this page, we focus on permitted development rights and explain why they represent a potentially important opportunity.

What are Permitted Development Rights?

Permitted development rights enable certain types of building work to be carried out without applying for planning permission. This is possible because of a general planning permission granted not by a local authority, but by Parliament.

More specifically, Article 3 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 first allowed certain types of development to proceed without the need for planning permission. More recently, The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, sets out the scope of permitted development rights.

The most commonly used rights relate to residential properties and cover minor extensions and erecting structures within a property’s curtilage, without requiring planning permission.

Permitted development rights apply not only to residential properties, but also to commercial properties, although different types of building will have different permitted development rights that apply.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that in some parts of the country known as ‘designated areas’ permitted development rights are more restricted. These include conservation areas, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage sites and the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

Permitted development rights can be removed by an Article 4 Direction, which specifies an area where a council decides to remove all or some of the permitted developments. These typically apply in places such as conservation areas.

If in doubt, it’s always sensible to consult the local planning authority before undertaking any work, just to make sure.

Commercial Property

There are a significant number of commercial properties located throughout the country that are suitable for repurposing and which are covered by permitted development rights.

Typical examples include office blocks constructed in the 1960s, often on the edge of large towns and cities, which are no longer required for commercial purposes. They can make ideal structures for converting into flats and apartments and in inner-city areas they may be suitable for conversion into student accommodation.

It’s not only offices. Many old agricultural buildings, light industrial units and warehouses can be repurposed and put to good use once again. There may be additional issues that need to be addressed such as contaminated land and some of the plots may be in the less desirable areas of a town, so developers need to carefully consider the wider range of issues that may present themselves.

A ticking clock

Just because a property is currently subject to permitted development rights, doesn’t mean they will last forever. As mentioned above, planning departments are able to revoke permitted development rights by issuing an Article 4 Direction.

Also be aware that exemptions to permitted development rights are currently in force across 17 local authorities including London’s Central Activities Zone as well as parts of Manchester and Ashford. Developers who have secured prior approval before the exemption was put in place have until May 2019 in which to complete the change of use.

It should not be assumed, therefore, that a development opportunity will remain in place forever.

Financing a change of use development

Development finance is available for property developers who are planning to repurpose an existing commercial building.

Here at Saffron Building Society, for example, we’re happy to receive applications from experienced investors who want to redevelop an exiting building.

We welcome proposals up to £3 million and are particularly interested in development projects based in London and the South and East of England. We will also consider applications from developers based elsewhere in England and Wales.

Please bear in mind, however, that the property must be developed as a commercial project for sale on completion. It cannot be developed as the investor’s main residence.

Further information

You can find further information about permitted development rights at:

Department for Communities and Local Government:

House of Commons Briefing Paper (June 2017) ‘Permitted Development Rights’:

The Planning Portal:

Want to talk about development finance?

If you want to talk about funding for a development project, then give the team a call on 01799 582886 or send an e-mail to:

I will be delighted to discuss your requirements and explain how Saffron Building Society may be able to help.