Campaigners pledge appeal as high court rules in favour of planning deregulation
Campaigners have failed in a high court legal challenge to overturn the government’s extension of permitted development rights introduced over the summer.
Campaign group Rights Community Action launched a judicial review in August of the new rights, which came in to force in September, allowing developers to extend homes upwards and demolish and rebuild existing commercial properties as houses.
The rights mean developers do not have to get full planning permission to make the changes, with previous permitted development rights seen as behind a slew of poor quality conversions of commercial buildings.
The RCA had claimed the government bypassed proper processes in bringing forward the new rights after it ignored consultation responses and its own expert advice, failed to issue a further previously promised consultation, and failed to carry out necessary environmental and equality impact assessments.
However, Lord Justice Lewis and Justice Holgate ruled that the departure from the promise to consult on the proposals on PD rights to demolish office buildings and erect buildings for residential use was lawful. He accepted the government’s argument that its failure to consult was proportionate in light of the need to stimulate the economy in light of the global pandemic.
He also said the secretary of state had done enough in response to its expert advice warning against the dangers of permitted development and the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission Report, such that he had not failed to “conscientiously consider” those reports.
RCA has said it will seek to appeal the ruling.
The new permitted development (PD) rights have been described as “disgraceful” by the Riba, given concerns over the quality of new homes approved under the PD process, such as Terminus House in Harlow (pictured, right). In July the expansion earned the government a rare joint rebuke from the professional institutions governing much of construction and development – the Riba, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Chartered Institute of Building and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Campaigner Naomi Luhde-Thompson, speaking for Rights: Community: Action, said: “The PM wants to tear down the existing planning system, and these reforms have been rushed through with scant regard for consultation and in a period which excluded the input of MPs, using the pandemic as an excuse.
“We believe these changes will have a phenomenally negative impact on the people and environment of towns and cities across England. That is why we are seeking permission to appeal.”
However, Claire Dutch, partner and co-head of planning and environment at law firm Ashurst, said: “The court’s dismissal of the judicial review claim will provide much needed certainty to the property industry. The new use classes have arrived, are currently being used and look like they are here to stay.”