Airspace Development Given Huge Boost In Budget Reforms

Developers could be permitted to build out the airspace above buildings without the need to apply for planning permission, if proposed new permitted development rights are adopted.

The proposals were one of the lesser-known measures announced as part of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget on October 29.

The government has launched a consultation titled ‘Planning Reform: Supporting The High Street And Increasing The Delivery Of New Homes’. Amongst other changes to permitted development rights proposed, developers in England would be able to add extra floors above existing residential and commercial properties, subject to certain limits, without the need to apply for planning permission.

The consultation document suggests that revitalising and supporting the UK’s high streets, as well as helping towards reducing the housing crisis, are the primary motivations for the proposed changes. It says: ‘National permitted development rights play an important role in helping high streets adapt to changes in how people shop and use the high street. They allow for change of use between some uses typically found on the high street, as well as allowing some high street premises to change to residential use.’

It outlines the size of the role permitted development rights can play: ‘Separately other permitted development rights also support the delivery of new homes. In 2016/17, permitted development rights provided nearly 18,900 new homes, 8.5% of the total number of net additions delivered.

‘The proposals set out in this chapter seek to build on previous reforms to help high streets thrive and to create more new homes from existing buildings, including in our town centres.’

The consultation continues: ‘We propose a new permitted development right to extend certain existing buildings upwards to provide additional, well designed, new homes to meet local housing need.’


‘National planning policy is clear that to support housing delivery we should make effective use of previously developed land and buildings, including the airspace above existing buildings, to create new homes.’


‘This proposal is to create much needed additional new homes which fit within the existing streetscape and can enhance the local area.’

In 2017 research conducted by global property consultancy Knight Frank found that as many as 41,000 new dwellings could be built in central London alone using rooftop development space, without altering the skyline to any great extent.The study, which used the latest geospatial mapping software, highlighted that more than 28m sq.ft. of potential additional residential floor area could be developed, with this airspace having a potential value of £51bn.

The government is asking for responses to this consultation to be submitted online by 14 January 2019.

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