An open letter on Permitted Development Rights

This open letter on permitted development rights was sent to the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 21 January 2019 and published on 28 January 2019.

open letter - banner

Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

2 Marsham Street



cc. Kit Malthouse MP (Minister of State for Housing)

Dear Secretary of State, 


Re: An open letter on Permitted Development Rights 


Latest Shelter research shows that in England today, there are more than 270,000 people without a home. At the heart of the reasons for this is the simple fact that for a generation we have failed to build the homes the country needs.

In addressing this, however, it is important to think not only about the number but also the type of homes we build and where they need to be built. In particular, there is a pressing need to ensure that the homes we build are genuinely affordable. Last year we delivered just 6,463 social rent homes despite having more than 1.2 million households on council house waiting lists. These statistics begin to underline the scale of the crisis we face and the level of ambition we need to resolve it.

As well as increasing the focus on affordability, new housing development should also provide homes that are high quality, well designed, and served by the necessary community infrastructure.

These ambitions are currently in jeopardy, because of national policies that enable developers to avoid making such vital contributions. One of the most significant of these is permitted development rights allowing offices to convert to residential homes without the need for planning permission.

Since 2013, developers have had a national right to convert office space into residential homes, a right they have wholly embraced with nearly seven per cent of new homes provided in this way in the last three years. Unfortunately, because they are exempt from the full local planning process, they come forward with minimal scrutiny and outside of local authority control.

These homes are also delivered without making any contribution towards affordable housing, which other forms of developments are required to do. This means that we are losing out on thousands of affordable homes which would be delivered if these homes went through the planning system.

Separate research by both the LGA and Shelter has shown the scale of this loss. Both organisations have calculated that more than 10,000 affordable homes have potentially been lost in the last three years.

The result of this is that thousands of families remain in temporary accommodation and on council house waiting lists for years, despite levels of housebuilding rising – underlining that we need to think more about what we build as well as how many homes we build.

Permitted development rights have caused extensive problems. Therefore, we consider that the current proposals to allow for demolition of existing buildings and replacement with new residential ones, and for upwards extensions to existing buildings for new homes through a permitted development right, should not be pursued.

We call on the government to instead focus on delivering the affordable, high quality homes that people want and need through the local planning process. This would support the government’s own ambitions to improve the quality of homes and places, as outlined in the terms of reference of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ commission launched in November. 

We also consider that there should be an independent review of the wide-ranging impacts of permitted development rights allowing change of use into residential homes.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Martin Tett

Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board Chair – Local Government Association

Greg Beales

Campaigns Director – Shelter

Hugh Ellis

Interim Chief Executive - Town and Country Planning Association

Terrie Alafat

Chief Executive – Chartered Institute of Housing

Matthew Goulcher

Managing Director – Levitt Bernstein

Ben Derbyshire

President – Royal Institute of British Architects

Paul Hackett

Chair – G15

Victoria Hills

Chief Executive – Royal Town Planning Institute

Steve Rotheram

Metro Mayor – Liverpool City Region

Ben Clifford

Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in Spatial Planning and Government – Bartlett School of Planning, UCL 

Kate Henderson

Chief Executive – National Housing Federation

Crispin Truman

Chief Executive – Campaign to Protect Rural England

Paul Seddon

President – Planning Officers Society

Chair – Core Cities Chief Planners Group

Jon Sparkes

Chief Executive – Crisis

Joanna Killian

Spokesperson for Economic Prosperity and Housing – Solace

Cllr Philip Atkins

Spokesman for Housing, Planning & Infrastructure – County Councils Network

Signatories added since publication are below -

Councillor Darren Rodwell

Executive member for housing and planning – London Councils

Ian Harvey

Executive Director – Civic Voice

Lizzie Glithero-West

Chief Executive - The Heritage Alliance

Robert Halfon MP


Cllr Danny Beales

Cabinet Member for Investing in Communities - London Borough of Camden

Matt Western MP

Warwick & Leamington

Helen Hayes MP

Dulwich & West Norwood

Cllr Shama Tatler

Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning - London Borough of Brent

Cllr Ian Ward

Leader Birmingham City Council

Seán O'Reilly

Director - Institute of Historic Building Conservation

Cllr Neil Nerva

London Borough of Brent

Caroline Kay

Chief Executive  - Bath Preservation Trust

Baroness Thornhill MBE

Tony Barton

Chairman - Donald Insall Associates

Michael Bach

Chair - The London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies

Richard Bennett

Chair Reading Civic Society

Peter Eversden MBE

Chairman -- London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies

Arnold Davey

Town Group Chairman – The Potters Bar Society

Cllr John Beesley FIH

Leader of Bournemouth Council

Marcus Taylor

Honorary Secretary - Friends of Lewes

Paul Cartwright

Chair - Pontefract Civic Society

Mark Ingall

Leader - Harlow Council

If your organisation would like to add its signature to the letter please email: [email protected]. Additional signatories will be accepted until 22 February 2019 at 5pm.