Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The recent GPDO amendments – a last look

NOTE: There have been significant changes to the law since this blog post was published, and so the material printed below does not accurately reflect the current position. The Second Schedule to the GPDO has been substantial ovehauled and re-numbered in the 2015 GPDO.

I promised in a previous post to deal with the new PD rights for other operational development granted by the amendment to the GPDO made in May.

The amendment order allows larger extensions of industrial premises than were previously permitted under Part 8 (industrial and warehouse development). The version of Part 8 that applied before 30 May 2013 was inserted in the GPDO in 2010. Class A comprises “the erection, extension or alteration of an industrial building or a warehouse.” Paragraph A.1 set out various dimensional limitations. These included [A.1(d)] any new building having a gross floor space of more than 100 square metres. Prior to April 2010, permitted development was limited to alteration and extension of existing buildings; there were no rights to provide new buildings under Class A. I have mentioned this because the editors of the Encyclopedia of Planning Law and Practice have not yet amended the text of their commentary to reflect this change, one of several instances where the text of the Encyclopedia relating to the GPDO is woefully out of date.

After April 6 2010, under paragraph A.1(e), the gross floorspace of the original building could be extended by up to 25% or 1,000 sq metres whichever was the less, provided the site was not within a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Conservation Area, the Broads or a World Heritage Site (“Article 1(5) land”). If it was in such an area, the size limits were 10% of the floorspace of the original building or 500 sq metres whichever was the less.

The effect of the recent amendments is that, with effect from 30 May 2013, but only for a three-year period ending on 30 May 2016, the figures mentioned above are increased, so that the size limit for a new building is now 200 sq m, provided it is not on “Article 1(5) land” or (a new provision) within a Site of Special Scientific Interest. For extensions, the limits are also doubled to 50% or 1,000 sq metres, whichever is the less, provided the site is not on “Article 1(5) land” or an SSSI. In an SSSI (which is not also “Article 1(5) land”) the absolute limit is still 1,000 sq m, but the percentage limit is reduced to 25%; and, again, the lesser figure applies. In “Article 1(5) land” the limits are 10% or 500 sq m (whichever is the less).

In respect of those developments that are larger than the previous limits, there are certain extra conditions (which do not apply to new buildings or extensions that are within the previous limits). The development must be completed before 30 May 2016, and the developer must notify the local planning authority of the completion of the development as soon as reasonably practicable after completion. This notification must be in writing and must include the name of the developer, the address or location of the development, a description of the development, including measurements and calculations (by reference to the new size limits) and the date of completion. Note that no prior notification is involved in this case and no prior approval is required.

Article 9 of the amending order amends Part 24 of Second Schedule the GPDO (developments by electronic communications code operators). The changes remove the need on “Article 1(5) land” for prior approval of the construction, installation or replacement of telegraph poles, cabinets or lines for fixed-line broadband services under Part 24 (paragraph A.3 ) for a 5 year period. Any developments covered by this concession must be completed before 30 May 2018.

It is easy to forget that Part 41 was added to the Second Schedule of the GPDO with effect from 6 April 2010, allowing certain extensions or alterations to office buildings. There is no reference here to “Article 1(5) land”, and the only restrictions relate to development within an SSSI. Except in an SSSI, the gross floor space of the original building can be increased by up to 50%; or 100 square metres, whichever is the less (up from 25% or 50 sq m under the 2010 rules). The same rules about notifying completion of one of these larger buildings or extensions apply here as apply to Part 8.

It is also easy to overlook Part 42 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO, another provision added in April 2010, which allows certain extensions or alterations to shops or catering, financial or professional services establishments. Again, the size limits have been increased from 25% to 50% or from 50 sq m to 100 sq m, subject to the same time limit for these larger extensions (completion before 30 May 2016) and the same requirements as to notifying the LPA of completion.

I have deliberately omitted the new permitted development rights for schools, as these are really only going to be of interest if you are directly involved in educational development. Suffice it to say that these changes represent the long-awaited delivery of the promise made way back in 2010 by our wonderful and ever so talented Education Secretary, Gussie Fink-Nottle (alias ‘Michael Gove’), to “tear up the planning laws” to allow his new ‘free’ schools to be built. It only took them 3 years to get there!

Meanwhile, our Welsh friends have also acquired a ‘round tuit’, and have finally amended the Welsh version of the GPDO to bring it more up-to-date. I have not had time yet to compare the new Schedule 2 in Wales with the version of the same schedule that now applies in England, but a very brief scan through it suggests that there are substantial similarities. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (Wales) Order 2013 (SI 2013/1776) comes into effect in Wales on 30 September.



  1. One wonders whether Part 41 rights could be used to implement a scheme of external alterations designed to better facilitate a later change of use to residential?

  2. I believe that Richard W may be right, as there is no requirement that such alterations must be 'needed' or 'necessary' for the office use. On the other hand, permitted development within Part 41 is subject to conditions which include a requirement that any office building as extended or altered shall only be used as part of, or for a purpose incidental to, the use of that office building. However, this does not preclude a subsequent change of use from B1(a) to C3 under the new provisions in Part 3.

    There is, nevertheless, just one lingering doubt in my mind, which arises from the Kwik Save case. If one takes a strict view of the principle established in that case, it could be argued that some time would have to elapse after the extension or alteration carried out under Part 41, before the right to apply for prior approval of change of use from B1(a) to C3 under the amended Part 3 could arise. I am not convinced that Kwik Save would necessarily be a stumbling block, but it cannot be dismissed out of hand.

    It is worth bearing in mind that any purely internal alterations will not be development at all, nor will any alterations that do not materially affect the external appearance of the building (as interpreted in the Burroughs Day case).