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MARCH 2024

The government has announced wide-ranging plans to meet their housing targets particularly an increase in the development of brownfield land which will include a review of the London Plan and changes to the National Planning Policy Framework ('NPPF') it has proposed that paragraph 129(c) of the NPPF would be changed to read as follows:

“Local planning authorities should refuse applications which they consider fail to make efficient use of land, taking into account the policies in this Framework, especially where this involves land which has been previously developed. In this context, when considering applications for housing, authorities should give significant weight to the benefits of delivering as many homes as possible and take a flexible approach in applying planning policies or guidance relating to daylight and sunlight and internal layouts of development, where they would otherwise inhibit making the most efficient use of a site (as long as the resulting scheme would provide acceptable living standards).”


Developers will need to prove that meeting the daylight and sunlight guidance would inhibit the use of the site. This sounds very helpful on paper but, in practice the application of a "flexible" approach is always difficult to quantify.


A flexible approach has been the guidance in the BRE report 209 since the 1990 edition I first worked with; however, at no point has any guidance been provided on what degree of flexibility is to be applied. The BRE gives numerical guidance for providing adequate daylight and sunlight amenity but no similar numerical assistance or guidance, in terms of percentages or similar, as to what a flexible approach might entail. A flexible approach is taken literally by some boroughs, particularly regarding interior light levels in new developments, where some local planning authorities grant consent for very dense development with little room between buildings, whereas others require almost full compliance with the British Standard and BRE, which can be difficult to achieve when intensifying land use and meeting the myriad of other design considerations.

According to the government's website, the changes will put "rocket boosters" under brownfield regeneration projects. The boosters will be lit once the current difficulties in obtaining funding are resolved, presumably.


The Daily Star vernacular is continued with the government describing itself as "helping developers overcome tiresome bureaucracy by slashing red tape". This will be achieved by extending permitted development rights.



The government should also consider amending the current regulatory framework to allow the redundant upper floors of high street shops to be converted to flats, returning them to their original use, in many cases.


There will be hurdles to be cleared including changing the tenancy structure and, in some cases, the provision of separate entrances but in many cases it would provide a profitable and energy and carbon-efficient means of providing extra housing - for 500,000 people it was estimated by Anthony Ratcliffe in his Estates Gazette article back in 2007 - and reduce the retailers' repair, dilapidations and rates liability in the surplus uppers.

In particular, the pension regulations should be relaxed to allow properties held in a self-invested personal pension to be, at least partly, converted to residential use.


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The government also plans to "empower" millions of homeowners to extend their houses "outwards and upwards" without being subjected to the "arduous process (sic)" of making planning applications by consulting on proposals to change permitted development rights.


Great news for those looking to "improve not move" although the current cost of building works and materials might mean the balance between the inconvenience and stress of moving house compared to the same factors in having the builders in might be coming more into equilibrium.


If implemented, this could mean an increase in aesthetically offensive protuberances such as dormer windows, bungalow to three-storey house extensions and multi-storey rendered monolith rear additions without neighbours' daylight and sunlight amenity being considered.

So watch out for your rights of light!

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