The Government have introduced a new Prior Approval Condition relating to fire safety for permitted development.

During the Christmas break the Government added a further Fire Approval condition. The new condition relates to upward extension permitted development rights to existing residential and commercial properties to address fire safety concerns.

The Government created permitted development (PD) rights for the creation of new flats throughout upwards extensions to existing properties in summer 2020. The new PD rights are subject to several limitations, which include the requirement for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority in respect of the various matters. This includes the impact on transport and highways of the development and contamination risks in relation to the existing building amongst other matters.

The Minister of Housing, Communities & Land Government sent a guidance letter at the end of December setting out the new requirements to Local Authorities. This letter states that the new requirement that developers must satisfy relates to upward development on existing detached blocks of flats and on detached buildings in commercial mixed use. 

According to explanatory notes, the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Order 2020 requires the developer to seek prior approval “in respect of the fire safety of the external wall construction of buildings that are 18m or more in height”.

The Amendment states that for relevant buildings, the application for prior approval should include “a report from a chartered engineer or other competent professional confirming that the external wall construction of the existing building complies with paragraph B4(1) of schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 2010 (3). Where a report is not provided the Local Planning Authority must refuse prior approval.

The letter also states that the Government “does not expect local Planning Authorities to have the necessary expertise to scrutinise such reports in detail”. However, it goes on to add “they should take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves there is no reason to doubt the conclusions of the report. In this respect, they may wish to check with the Building Control department if they have concerns about the building in question. 

RR Paice