Under planning legislation, most buildings are allocated to what is called a Use Class. Different rules regarding potential development apply to different use classes and some have what are called Permitted Development Rights (PDR), which allow owners to change the use or even demolish a property without needing planning permission.
In May 2017, the Government removed PDR from pubs (Use Class A4) which meant that any change of use or development involving demolition required full planning procedure. This was a great step forward and the protection currently offered to pubs by the planning laws is, arguably, as good as it has ever been. That said, we have still lost many pubs to development schemes that were subject to that procedure, sometimes winning locally only to lose to a planning inspector’s overriding decision.
Earlier this year, the Government announced a revision of the planning rules, the most sweeping changes since the current system was introduced in 1987. There was concern that the protection of pubs might be weakened, especially given that the creation of more residential accommodation was a primary aim. Happily this has turned out not to be so, or at least, not for the immediate future.
The changes, made under the Town & Country Planning (Use Classes (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, took effect on 1 September. As stated in the title, these changes only apply to England. A new Use Class, ‘E’, has been created to cover the previous class B1 (business/offices) and a number of the former ‘A’ classes: A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services) and A3 (restaurants and cafes).
The remaining ‘A’ classes, pubs (A4) and hot food takeaways (A5) have become sui generis, along with cinemas, bingo halls, dance halls and live music venues (if there are any left). Sui generis means ‘constituting a class alone’ so there can be no unregulated interchangeability of use between these types. CAMRA’s Planning Advisory Group is satisfied that no PDRs have been slipped in through the back door and a change of use or the demolition of a pub still requires full planning permission. It is however understood that there will be a further review next July.
At the same time, the Government have introduced two new sets of General Permitted Development Order Regulations, taking effect from 31 August. One permits, without obtaining prior planning permission, the addition of additional storeys on certain types of building. I’m sure that some developers will be eyeing the prospect of the upward extension of some pubs which have been subject to ‘Trojan horse’ developments in which their upper floors have been converted into self-contained housing.
The second set permits, again without the need for planning permission, the demolition of both freestanding blocks of flats and certain commercial buildings for redevelopment as residential properties.
London Councils, the representative body of local authorities in London, sees this as a ‘planning free-for-all’ and are concerned about the consequent reduction in the maintenance of quality standards and the provision of affordable housing.
Finally, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to the report on the Academy in Notting Hill in the Pub News column. I have previously mentioned Policy HC7 of the Mayor of London’s draft London Plan, to which CAMRA’s Greater London Region made a significant contribution, and it was good to see that the planning inspector referred to it in her decision. The Plan is now due to be published and formally take effect in the near future.