Campaign group launch a legal challenge in the High Court on the government’s new permitted development rights

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Rights: Community: Action Ltd (RCA) a campaign group is challenging the government on the radical changes to the permitted development rights and the Use Classes Order, which came into force on 31 August 2020. The application for leave for judicial review challenging the new laws is to be heard on 8 October 2020.

RCA are challenging the lawfulness of three statutory instruments (SIs) as follows:

  1. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2020, which brings the enlargement of a dwellinghouse by the construction of two additional storeys within permitted development rights.
  2. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2020, which introduces new Class ZA to allow for the demolition of a single detached building in existence on 12 March 2020 that was used for office, research and development or industrial processes, or a free-standing purpose-built block of flats, and its replacement by a detached block of flats or a single detached dwellinghouse within the footprint of the old building. The right provides permission for works for the construction of a new building that can be up to two storeys higher than the old building, with a maximum overall height of 18 metres.
  3. The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 amends the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 by abolishing a number of previous use Classes and replacing them with much broader use Classes and thereby allowing changes within the new broader use Class to occur without the need for planning permission. Class E absorbs previous use Classes A1 (Shops), A2 (Financial and professional services), A3 (Restaurants and cafes) and B1 (Business). Under the Use Classes Order, permission would have been needed for change between A3 and B1. Class F1 and F2 absorbs several of the previous use Classes D1 (Non-residential institutions) and D2 (Assembly and leisure).

The grounds for the legal challenge are:

  1. The government failed to carry out an environmental assessment of the SIs pursuant to the requirements of EU law and UK implementing regulations.
  2. The government failed to carry out an appropriate equality impact assessment of the SIs contrary to its duty under the Equality Act 2010 to inform itself about what “protected groups” would be impacted by the proposed changes. RAC is arguing that by failing to carry out an equality impact assessment, the government failed adequately to consider the impact of the reforms on the disabled. The concern is that permitted development rights enable developers to build accommodation which fails to meet the needs of the disabled.
  3. The government failed to take account of consultation responses and other material considerations. RAC are claiming that the Government failed to take into account its own expert advice, the negative consultation responses from stakeholders and the public and that the Secretary of State closed his mind to the issues being raised.

RAC had originally sought an order to suspend the effect of the SIs, but this was withdrawn. The matter will be heard between 8 and 15 October 2020.