The Victorian Society’s amendments removing permitted development rights for demolition debated in the House of Lords

Baroness Andrews, Lord Carrington of Fulham and Lord Shipley championed our amendments to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill which would remove Permitted Development Rights for demolition. The amendments, detailed below, do not go to a vote at committee stage. We intend to bring the issue back at report stage following the Society’s useful meeting with the Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson to discuss the issues.

Photo: House of Lords Chamber. Photo Copyright: UK Parliament, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Photo: House of Lords Chamber. Photo Copyright: UK Parliament, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Watch the debate on removing permitted development rights for demolition here.

Baroness Andrews’ speech is here, Lord Shipley’s speech is here and Lord Carrington’s Speech is here.

According to the RIBA 50,000 buildings are demolished in the UK each year. Allowing demolition under permitted development rights should be ended as soon as possible to:

  1. Help meet the UK’s legally binding net zero target by reducing demolition and encouraging reuse and retrofit of existing buildings.
  2. Strengthen local democracy by ensuring local communities have a say over which buildings stay or go in their areas.
  3. Stop the loss of non-designated heritage assets; and
  4. Address the housing crisis by preventing the easy demolition of homes.

Amendment 1: Removing permitted development rights for demolition

Currently, most buildings can be demolished without planning permission if they are not listed or in a conservation area. These permitted development rights for demolition have already been removed for pubs and theatres. There is no requirement for the buildings to be run down or beyond repair for the right to apply.

The Victorian Society regularly sees high quality historic buildings demolished through permitted development rights. There is a historic under-listing of Victorian and later structures as identified by Historic England’s Saunders Report – it is not the case that all important buildings are already listed. The right means buildings could be demolished whilst they are being considered for listing if a Building Preservation Notice has not been issued.

The current tax regime, 0% VAT on demolition and rebuild vs 20% VAT on repair and maintenance, further stacks the odds in favour of existing buildings being swept away. Demolishing interesting buildings on a site using permitted development rights means that local authorities may be less likely to refuse a subsequent planning permission for a development which is less desirable than the existing building. Conversely, there is no requirement for anything to be built on the site after demolition, meaning a site could sit empty for decades rather than the existing building being reused.

This amendment would not stop demolition but it would mean that it could not be decided upon unilaterally. It would not place extra burden on the planning system but encourage joined up consideration of a site’s future. Demolition applications would most likely be considered at the same time as an application for redeveloping the site. A de minimis right would remain to ensure that planning permission is not needed to demolish small structures, e.g. a shed. Removing these permitted development rights would reduce demolition, therefore helping us reach net zero.

According to the Green Building Council ‘approximately 40% of the UK’s emissions are attributable to the built environment, while construction, demolition, and excavation activities generate approximately 60% of the UK’s waste. When a building is demolished and a new one is put in its place, the emissions locked into the original building are wasted and the new building’s material manufacturing and construction processes create new emissions. Even energy efficient buildings can take decades to save more operational energy emissions than were created in the construction process. Up to 51% of a residential building’s carbon is emitted before the building is operational (and up to 35% for an office building)’.

Other amendments may suggest a more general review of permitted development rights is welcome. However, the case for removing Permitted Development Rights for demolition is so overwhelming that including them in such a review would introduce too much uncertainty of outcome. Consultation should focus on how the rights for demolition are best removed.

Second amendment: Requiring planning permission for demolishing heritage assets on a local list

Baroness Andrews has also submitted a second amendment requiring planning permission to demolish locally listed assets. This would be a fall-back position if the amendment removing the right for all buildings was unsuccessful.

Locally listed assets are heritage structures which, although not nationally listed, are considered important by local councils. However, not all local authorities have local lists so it would be a post code lottery as to whether a community’s most important local buildings could be easily demolished. Nevertheless, this would still be a very significant improvement for the protection of local heritage.

The Government recently invested £1.5 million on local lists – yet the structures on these lists can be demolished without planning permission if they are outside a conservation area. There is some concern that local lists are undefined. The Secretary of State could address this by issuing guidance on the criteria local lists must meet to be excluded from the permitted development right.

The two amendments were published on the Bills publications page on the 27th February 2023. See HL Bill 84-III (b) Amendments for Committee (Supplementary to the Third Marshalled List)

Photo: House of Lords Chamber by UK Parliament is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.



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