Why building upwards opens up a realm of opportunities for the affordable housing market
Owen Evans, Managing Surveyor at Rund Partnership shares his thoughts on the benefits and considerations concerning the new permitted development right for building upwards, which is set to come into force in August.
“The Government recently announced a series of planning reforms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, signalling a number of positive changes that represent a great step forwards for the construction and housing industry. One particular announcement I would like to address is the new permitted development right due to come into force in August, where property owners will be granted new rights to install two extra storeys on housing without planning permission.
An overview of the new legislation: permitted development rights for building upwards
“So firstly, what does this mean? The permitted development right for building upwards will apply to existing houses that are detached, semi-detached or in a terrace. This new legislation follows the introduction of permitted development rights for upwards extensions to purpose-built blocks of flats.
“Homeowners who want to extend their homes will now have fewer planning restrictions to navigate, meaning that it will be easier for them to add space to their property. Developers across the UK won’t need to request planning permission to build another story on their house, as long as the newly extended house does not exceed 18 metres in height, or where the house is a terrace, it is not more than 3.5 metres higher than the next tallest house in the terrace.
The benefits of building upwards
“The overarching benefit to this new legislation is that the UK has the potential to deliver thousands of new homes in this way, bridging the gap between supply and demand.
“What’s more, this new permitted development right for building upwards will allow us to make the most of local existing infrastructure, creating more opportunities to deliver more homes upwards, rather than outwards, without the need to develop on an increasingly scarce recourse of new land and delay the build process.
“A great example of a company leading the way on building upwards is Barnet Homes. Rund is currently working with them to provide our Employer’s Agent and Principal Designer services and we have experienced first-hand their vision for building upwards.
“Barnet Homes is currently acting as development agent on behalf of Barnet Council, to construct 18 new homes in vertical roof extensions to five existing flatted blocks on the Burnt Oak Broadway estate. The project marks the first step in Barnet Homes’ ambitions to create a wider programme of rooftop developments across the borough, with an overall aim of helping solve London’s housing shortage through such means.
The considerations of building upwards
“While this new legislation does indeed open up a realm of opportunities to help solve the housing crisis, it does come with a few considerations which need to be taken into account.
“For example, although there will be a height limit for new developments, tensions with neighbours may increase as new developments could cause light restrictions to their properties. In addition, the building process itself will come with disruptions as properties may be built on the roofs of others.
“However, there are construction methods available which may offer some respite, such as modular manufacture. This involves constructing standardised building elements off-site and under controlled conditions, which can offer significant programme savings when measured against more conventional methods. It should be noted that modular construction relies on repetition of the same unit type and rely on economies of scale to achieve value for money for clients. Lightweight traditional construction is a popular alternative in instances where modular is less suited.
“There is also an underlying concern that the new permitted development right will risk a new generation of substandard homes, as compliancy rules will be relaxed and developments may not be screened for quality.
“At Rund, our success is built around our assurance of high quality in construction and so we above all else recognise the need for developments to meet a certain standard to be fit for purpose. When this legislation does go ahead, new measures will need to be put in place to ensure this quality is not compromised by adopting innovation. The Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) is one such measure that ensures homes built from non-traditional methods and materials are underpinned by build warranty and will be readily mortgageable for at least 60 years.
Looking to the future: how will building upwards benefit the affordable housing market?
“To summarise, this new permitted development right for building upwards has the potential to facilitate the delivery of much needed affordable homes in the coming years.
“However, we do still need to be mindful that quality cannot be compromised when it comes to building upwards, and the same standards should apply to these new properties as they do for traditional builds. Innovative construction methods like that of modular are an attractive option for some build-over projects and could be an effective solution for quicker, efficient, less expensive and less disruptive construction when this new legislation is put into place.”