Council to Tell Inquiry Hundreds of Affordable Homes Lost in Reading Due to Permitted Development Rights

  • Nearly 600 new affordable homes and millions in contributions lost in Reading due to permitted development rights planning laws
  • Council invited to submit oral evidence on the impact in Reading at next week’s House of Commons Select Committee inquiry

THE Council will next week tell a House of Commons Select Committee inquiry that the use of permitted development rights (PDR’s) in Reading has cost the town nearly 600 new affordable homes along with the loss of at least £3.5 million in off-site contributions to affordable housing, and nearly £4 million in planning fees and education, leisure and transport contributions.

PDR’s allow changes to be made to a building without the need to apply for planning permission. They are intended to boost growth by giving owners more flexibility, but they also remove an essential tool for Councils to increase affordable housing provision locally through developer contributions, as well as resulting in poor quality new homes for residents.

Recently the Government expanded the use of PDR’s by permitting conversion between a much wider range of commercial and retail premises, and conversions from those uses to residential. This was despite a report it commissioned being highly critical of the results of permitted development so far (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/902220/Research_report_quality_PDR_homes.pdf)

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has now launched a new inquiry to examine the impact of this expansion of PDR’s, with Reading Borough Council invited to submit oral evidence. The invitation follows the Council’s recent written submission to the inquiry based on its significant experience of PDR’s in Reading.

Key points in the Council’s written submission to the inquiry include:

  • Reading has potentially missed out on 586 on-site affordable homes and £3.64 million in off-site contributions to affordable housing over 8 years of PDR’s
  • 83% of new homes provided in Reading through PDR are one-bedroom or studio, which fails to match the local identified need for different sized homes
  • Residents being introduced into areas wholly inappropriate as a place to live, due to noise, disturbance and air quality issues
  • A potential £2.17 million loss of developer contributions towards local education and open space facilities and an estimated loss of £1.53 million in planning application fees to the Council.

Evidence to the inquiry will be presented by Mark Worringham, Planning Team Leader at Reading Borough Council, who prepared the Council’s written evidence last month. This can be read in full at https://www.reading.gov.uk/planning/pdr-submission/. All written submissions, including Reading Borough Council’s, are expected to be uploaded to the inquiry website at https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1131/permitted-development-rights/publications/

Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:

“The impact of PDR’s in Reading is laid bare in the Council’s written submission, with the loss of almost 600 new affordable homes locally and the loss of millions more in off-site affordable housing contributions. At a time when the housing crisis locally and across the South-East shows no signs of abating, these figures are obscene.

“This inquiry is long overdue and has been brought even more sharply into focus with the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. The truth is nobody can really predict the long term impact of the pandemic on office space in a town like Reading. It is absolutely essential the correct planning framework is in place nationally to enable local councils to keep an overview of local planning decisions. Councils must retain the ability to insist that developers make an appropriate contribution to local infrastructure and affordable housing, as opposed to solely increasing their profit margins at our expense.

“I am pleased Reading Borough Council has been afforded this opportunity to make its case directly to the inquiry as a result of our excellent written submission. We intend to press the case for reform in the strongest possible terms.”

The inquiry – chaired by Clive Betts MP and beginning on Monday (17th May) –  will examine the impact that an expansion of the PDR system has had, and will continue to have, on the planning system and the Governments targets for new homes and economic growth. It will also examine the impact at a local level, including the ability of local authorities to plan development holistically, developer contributions and the provision of services to meet changing local needs. The inquiry will also consider the further changes to permitted development outlined in the planning White Paper.

The inquiry findings will be reported to the Commons, printed, and published on the Parliament website. The Government then usually has 60 days to reply to the committee’s recommendations.

Oscar Mortali

For media enquiries about this release email oscar.mortali@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 2301