CIfA joins signatories of letter to Government on permitted development rights in England

Last week CIfA joined 18 other organisations from the natural, built and historic environment sectors to call on the Government in Westminster to rethink its approach to permitted development rights in England.

In recent years, Government has made numerous changes to the planning system which have had the effect of de-regulating and streamlining the system. These changes have been articulared as promoting housing and economic growth. While we support these goals, and effective reforms that maintain sustainable development, we believe that successive changes which remove the need to apply for planning permission for ever more types of development, at ever greater scales, are undermining the management and protection of the historic environment provided by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and, as a result, producing unsustainable development.

The letter relates to a current open consultation on the latest permitted development right extension. CIfA will be responding to this consultation, which closes on 29 January.

The joint letter was sent to Government ministers and was published in an abridged form in the Sunday Telegraph on 17 January (subscription required). Full text is below.


We, the undersigned, express our deep concern about the latest proposals for the expansion of Permitted Development Rights in England.

These proposals will lower housing standards and accessible natural green infrastructure provision, extinguish local democracy, and end public participation. Communities and their local councils have simply lost control of many of the forms of development that matter most to them.

Permissions for over one million new homes are already in place but not built out according to the Local Government Association. There is little case to be made that the current system does not deliver consent for development.

Existing permitted development rights have resulted in what the Government’s own report has called poor quality homes. Much less funding is going to local authorities as a result of these changes. Councillors and MPs across the spectrum have voiced their deep concern at the size, quality, amenity, design, location and climate change implications of these developments.

This consultation proposes to consolidate the relaxation of the use class order and extends and makes permanent existing permitted development rights. Town planning as we have known it will not apply to the vast majority of development in urban areas.

The intention to apply these private rights to conservation areas, and to exclude design and climate mitigation and adaptation from the list of very limited matters which councils can think about before giving approval is extremely damaging. Losing control of town centres to private interests will do nothing to secure their comprehensive regeneration in the public interest post the pandemic. Local people are being locked out of any say on the shape and feel of their communities and civic places.

We believe that local people and local businesses are best places to lead the process of change that will result from a reduced need for existing retail space. Local communities will often want to see a range of other uses apart from retail and housing. There is an increasing interest, for example, in turning over town centre space for more health and wellbeing related purposes. Where new housing is appropriate, planning safeguards are needed to make sure that the homes provided best match local needs for more genuinely affordable and quality homes with accessible natural green space. The Government’s proposals will offer no such safeguards.

We believe that the planning system needs to ensure:

            Locally democratically accountable decisions

            A right to have a say over the decisions which will transform communities

More genuinely affordable homes for local people

Environmental protection and recovery for biodiversity, and provision of accessible natural green space and conservation

The application of strong climate change mitigation and adaptation duties


Signed by:

Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles, Co-Chief Executives, Friends of the Earth

Hugh Ellis, Director of Policy, Town and Country Planning Association

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive, CPRE

Ian Harvey, Executive Director, Civic Voice

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive, The RSPB

Darren Moorcroft, Chief Executive, The Woodland Trust

Peter Hinton, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

David Macdonald, Chief Executive, Institute of Historic Building Conservation

Neil Redfern, Executive Director, Council for British Archaeology

Tanya Curry, Interim Chief Executive, The Ramblers

Kit Stoner, Chief Executive, Bat Conservation Trust

Nicola Hodgson, Case Officer, Open Spaces Society

Jo Wright, The Mammal Society

Dr Tony Gent, Chef Executive Officer, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Anna Liberadzki, SumofUs