The Legal Aspect – Permitted Development and Judicial Reviews

Another of our articles in this month’s newsletter discussed new changes the Government wants to make to Permitted Development Rights. As the article mentions, the Government already made changes that came into effect on 30th May 2013 and, despite an obvious wish to push ahead, these original changes are now the subject of a Judicial Review.

The Government brought in the Permitted Development changes through secondary legislation that amended the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995. Of particular concern was the permitting of conversions from office to residential which, intending to reduce the number of vacant office blocks across the country, was seen by some as giving a licence to landlords to deteriorate important industrial areas in favour of a quick profit. Cllr Robbins, Cabinet Member for Housing and regeneration at Lambeth Council, explains:

“Landlords in Brixton and Streatham have been handed a free rein to turn offices into flats – it’s simply unacceptable.

“The new regulations could harm trade in these key areas and raise the prospect of job losses, lost business rates and reduced funding for infrastructure.”

The Government did create 17 local authority exemptions to aid in this, but Lambeth is now seeking a Judicial review of the process the Government went through to select those 17 locations. Cllr Robbins elaborates:

“Based on the information provided, it is impossible to understand how the Government could have exempted residential areas in places such as Kensington and Chelsea, while ignoring the value to our local economy of Brixton and Streatham.”

In response, the Department for Communities and Local Government informed the BBC:

“The department introduced the office to residential change of use policy in order to bring underused offices back into effective use and provide new homes, and we will vigorously defend any legal challenge to the policy.”

This isn’t the first legal challenge made to the Government Permitted development push either. In July, Islington Council became the first authority in the country to issue an Article 4 direction, which enforces a requirement for planning permission, in a bid to overturn some of the permitted development rights introduced by the Government.

It also sought a judicial review of the ‘office to residential’ rule itself and the way in which the Government decided on exemptions – similar to the process Lambeth is embarking upon now.

With action from the two councils looming on the horizon, some might view DCLG as brave indeed for pushing ahead with yet more reforms – the result of which could be several more costly legal defences at the taxpayers’ expense.

SRJ / LCB                                                                                                       21/08/2013

Comment on this article