The Court of Appeals will rule next week on a legal challenge to overturn the government’s extension of Authorized Development Rights (PD) to create new homes, which was passed following the pandemic shutdown in during the summer.
The court scheduled Oct. 5 to consider an appeal by environmental campaign group Rights: Community: Action (RCA) against the High Court’s dismissal last November of its claim that the new development rights had not been granted. properly examined or consulted before being introduced.
In August, the Department of Housing – now the Department for Leveling, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – introduced new PD rights through a statutory instrument. These allowed developers to demolish and rebuild properties as homes, build new homes on top of existing homes and offices, and removed a series of previously existing planning use classes.
The measures, which were presented as part of the government’s response to the economic crisis brought on by the covid-19 pandemic, were fiercely opposed by many planners and came about despite evidence of the poor quality of houses being built in within the framework of existing PD rights.
The changes were also introduced without another consultation the government had promised when the majority of respondents to an earlier consultation on the same proposal opposed the plans.
RCA director Naomi Luhde-Thompson said if the challenge was successful, PD’s rights would be waived. “We think this is a really important case,” she added. “This is about defending the extent of protection afforded by environmental protection laws in England.
The new PD rights were described last year as ‘shameful’ by the RIBA, given concerns about the quality of new homes approved in the process, such as Terminus House in Harlow (pictured, right). Last July, the government received a rare joint rebuke over changes in the professional institutions governing much of construction and development – the RIBA, RTPI, Chartered Institute of Building and RICS.
Last year, the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful commission said that the current expanded use of PD had inadvertently enabled “future slums,” while the government’s own assessment of the quality of houses produced by PD said that ‘they made worse homes’ for a number of factors. largely linked to the health, well-being and quality of life of future occupants ”.
However, last November, High Court Justices Lord Justice Lewis and Justice Holgate ruled against RCA’s challenge on all three grounds raised by the charity. However, they conceded that the first of RCA’s motives – whether the government should have performed a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) before introducing the new regulations – was defensible and granted RCA leave to appeal.
RCA’s grounds of appeal document alleges that the High Court “erred in concluding that the three regulatory instruments were not required to undergo a strategic environmental assessment”.
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The High Court judgment concluded that the regulatory texts had not “established the framework for a future project development agreement”, and therefore could not be the subject of an SEA under the law in question. force. However, RCA is on the verge of arguing that this judgment is based on an “unduly narrow interpretation of the term ‘consent to development'”.
Official figures show that the government’s earlier extension of PD rights, introduced in 2014, had produced nearly 73,000 new homes by March 2020.
A DLUHC spokesperson said: “We are aware of the lawsuits. We do not comment on pending disputes.