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The sky's the limit - Upward extensions in London

Tuesday 07 March 2017

In April 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government, alongside the Mayor of London, opened a consultation on the implementation of planning changes and upward extensions in London.

The Government consulted jointly with former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on proposals to increase housing supply in London by allowing a limited number of additional storeys on existing buildings through a permitted development right, local development orders or development plan policies, as an alternative method of expansion on brownfield land.

110 responses were received and in summary, respondents were supportive of the principle of building up to deliver more homes, but there were mixed views about the proposed mechanisms to do so.

Only half of respondents felt that greater freedom to build upwards on existing premises could be a viable option to increase housing while protecting London’s open spaces. Physical practicalities rather than securing planning permission was deemed as the main restriction.

NAEA Propertymark responded to the consultation and welcomed the idea of upward extensions as a way to increase housing whilst protecting open spaces, which in London, are at a premium.

More than half of respondents were not supportive of a London permitted development right with prior approval and felt that a one-size-fits all permitted development right approach was unworkable.

The proposed neighbour consultation scheme to engage the community in any future plans however was welcomed by respondents to the consultation.

NAEA Propertymark agreed with the proposed options for neighbour consultation and believe that local residents must be informed as early as possible in the planning process. NAEA Propertymark also stated that residents must be given the opportunity to provide comments to a consultation or attend a public event which outlines the plans.

Local development orders were seen by half of responders as acceptable for upward extensions in suitable areas and would allow the local community to be involved in the design. However, concerns were raised about diverting resources away from local authorities.

There was considerable support for the proposal of a London Plan policy which could provide certainty for developers and allow boroughs to encourage building up through development plan policies. Respondents considered that a planning application, submitted in line with a plan policy, would allow for consideration of the impacts of individual proposals, ensure they are appropriate to the character of an area, and could be more flexible in delivering homes than a tightly drawn permitted development right.

Government response

The responses confirmed that there is potential to deliver more homes by increasing densities on brownfield land and it is clear that building up has a role to play in meeting the need for new homes across the country, not just in London.

The Housing White Paper

The response to the consultation on upward extensions was released on the same day as the Housing White Paper, which proposes a package of measures to support building at higher densities and using land more efficiently for development.

Through the consultation in the housing white paper, the Government is now asking, do you agree with the proposals to amend national policy to make clear that plans and individual development proposals should: address the particular scope for higher-density housing in urban locations that are well served by public transport, that provide opportunities to replace low-density uses in areas of high housing demand, or which offer scope to extend buildings upwards in urban areas?

Whilst NAEA Propertymark did agree with the Government's plans for upward extensions and welcomes innovative ideas, we advised that an added benefit could include the requirement for all new upward extensions rooftops to be partially covered in either plants or solar panels and that the use of underground spacing for such things as parking should be taken into consideration when demolishing existing property and rebuilding upwards.

The Government’s intention is to take forward the policy option through amending the National Planning Policy Framework in order to support the delivery of additional homes by building up.

View the full consultation document