The national and planning press has been awash with articles and comments on the new government Planning White Paper for consultation.

Less focus has been on a new range of permitted development rights introduced in July 2020, which may provide many opportunities for the many rural landowners which Rural Solutions advises on a day to day basis.

‘Permitted Development’ relates to a form of development which does not require planning permission. For a permitted development a planning application is not required to establish the principle of a development taking place (as this is established in law), however, a simplified application may be required in relation to technical planning matters such as external design.  

In this note, we provide more information on the new permitted development rights, which apply from 1st September 2020 and the planning opportunities they provide. We focus on the following new rights and what they might mean for rural landowners:

  1. New rights for the demolition of buildings and construction of a new house or apartment block in their place (Class ZA)
  2. New rights which allow vertical extensions to existing houses (up to two additional storeys) – (Class AA)
  3. New rights which allow vertical extensions to an existing house to create new flats atop houses – (Class AC and AD)


This may create a significant opportunity for some rural landowners.

The Rights: In short, these new permitted development rights relate to buildings that are currently in the planning B-use class (offices, light industrial or research and development). The building must have been in existence since 1989, be less than 18 metres high and have been vacant for six months prior to submission of a permitted development application. The building can be demolished and either a single dwelling or apartment block built in its place. The envelope of the new building must be largely similar to the one to be removed. An application must be submitted to the local authority in relation to design, amenity and a host of other matters. However, the principle of development is confirmed by the permitted development rights so the local authority cannot try to block development on issues relating to the principle of development.

The Restrictions: The rights do not apply in National Parks, Conservation Areas, the curtilage of a listed building or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is no restriction on sites in Green Belt.

The Opportunity: For the landowner with the right building in the right place this may create a huge opportunity, as the rights give the opportunity to create a substantial country house or apartment block in the countryside (as well as urban areas). The opportunity to create an apartment block in the countryside is a very rare one.

A few potential scenarios below on how Rural Solutions could envisage the rights being applied by rural landowners:

1. A landowner has a large former agricultural building on an isolated farmstead with stunning views. The buildings have changed over time in its use from agriculture to a B1 use class. The landowner could then create a new country house or apartment block of significant value in its place.

2. In some cases, a landowner may have developed a rural office centre (B1 use class) which is no longer required or delivering an appropriate return. The office centre could then create a footprint for a valuable residential scheme.

3. A rural estate may have an estate office which is no longer required in full or part. This may then be demolished and replaced by new housing. Other opportunities may then exist on the estate to relocate the estate office use.

Valuable new permitted development rights allow for demolition of existing commercial buildings and replacement with a single house or apartment block


The Rights: These permitted development rights provide an opportunity for existing dwellings constructed between 1st July 1948 and 27th October 2018 to be increased by up to two storeys (as long as the resulting property is then no more than 18m in height).

The potential to add two storeys relates to detached, semi-detached and terraced houses. For bungalows, there is the right to increase the height by a single storey only.

An application will be required so the local authority can assess matters of external appearance and amenity of nearby residents.

In addition to these rights, there are existing and longstanding permitted development rights which allow for substantial rear extensions, side extensions, extensive outbuildings and the opportunity to completely facelift a property.

The Restrictions: The rights do not apply in National Parks, Conservation Areas, the curtilage of a listed building or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is no restriction on sites in Green Belt.

The Opportunity: The rights provide substantial opportunities to increase the size of existing houses in the countryside.

The rights in certain cases may create what is known as a fall-back position on which to base the construction of a large replacement country house, which is an area in which Rural Solutions has extensive experience.

We consider that the rights may be particularly valuable in the following locations:

1. Areas where the local authority has a policy on the size of extensions that can be added to houses / or a policy on the scale of replacement houses which can be developed. The new rights may provide for extensions of houses which are larger than could have previously been delivered if full planning consent is required; or

2. In Green Belt areas where the national policy would not allow for ‘disproportionate’ extensions to the size of the original building.

A few potential scenarios that Rural Solutions envisage:

1. A rural landowner owns a small property which they want to increase in size to maximise a rental return. They also wish to change its appearance, for example in the case of an unattractive mid-twentieth century house or bungalow. They can now apply to increase the scale of the property by up to two storeys creating significant additional floorspace and this should be approved by the council subject to external appearance and amenity considerations.

The landowner can also apply for a certificate to add rear and side extensions to the building, as well as extensive outbuildings to it. In many scenarios, the floorspace of the property could be tripled.

2. Someone wishing to create a new house in the countryside may see an existing property which they wish to replace with a new country house. Following a planning review and purchase, the owner may make the applications, as set out above, in order to confirm the extensive potential to extend the existing property creating what is sometimes known as ‘fall-back position’ in terms of the scale of a new house).

In some cases, an application to develop a new house that is equivalent to the scale of the property could then follows. There may be various reasons why a replacement house may be preferable than the ‘fall back position’ in terms of external design, energy efficiency etc, which can create a convincing case for the replacement house to be approved.

New permitted development rights allowing for the vertical extension of existing properties, can provide a strong ‘fall-back position on which to base a proposal for a replacement house.


We focus slightly less on this opportunity as it may only be relevant to rural landowners in a smaller number of cases.

The rights provide for the opportunity to add a single storey on top of terraced or semi-detached properties to create flats or in the case of detached properties two additional storeys to provide flats. The restrictions are similar to those for the rights referred to in section two and an application will be required so the council can assess similar issues, for example, external appearance.

These permitted development rights could provide opportunities for families wishing to live together, for example with an existing house extended upwards to provide a flat(s) for children or ageing relatives.

A commercial opportunity may also exist in high-value areas, especially where increasing the number of properties on a plot, through adding flats to the roof of an existing house, could increase rental (or sales) income.

After the flats have been added to the roof of an existing house an application could then be made to convert the house to flats, with an expectation that this could be granted. As an example, if two storeys could be added to an existing detached two-storey house (creating four flats atop the house) and then the house could be converted into a further four flats, this could create a valuable eight flat scheme in place of an existing house.

New permitted development rights allowing for the vertical extension of existing properties by two stories could be the first part of a two-stage process to create an apartment block from an existing residential dwelling)

Rural Solutions advises a broad range of rural landowners including country estates, farm businesses, individual landowners and developers. Our experienced planning team deals with rural planning issues on a day to day basis and is well placed to advise landowners on these new rights and opportunities from other planning changes.

Should you wish to discuss please call us on 01756 796199 and speak with Joanne Halton, James Ellis, Shelley Coffey or Duncan Hartley.