Exploring airspace opportunities for permitted development

In June 2020, the Government announced an update of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended) (GPDO) in a new 20th Part, allowing for the construction of new flats in airspace on a variety of buildings throughout England.

September 28, 2023

For developers and landlords looking to capitalise on the opportunities available to existing housing stock or commercial premises, permitted development rights (where planning permission isn't required) has created new possibilities to quickly unlock the potential of buildings - especially in our urban centres.

Unlocking the potential of airspace

Airspace developments refer to the construction of homes built within the 'air rights' of existing buildings, typically extending around two levels up from the current building. In simple terms, this means an upwards extension on the roof of a building.

Part 20 of the GPDO permits the construction of new flats in the airspace of different types of commercial and residential buildings, providing additional opportunities to create dwellings in built-up areas. 

Here are the key criteria to keep in mind:

  • The original building must be at least three storeys in height above ground level
  • The original building you intend to renovate must be a minimum of three storeys above ground level
  • On a staggered building, it is the higher part that can be built upon
  • The floor-to-ceiling height in your newly developed flats cannot exceed 3m
  • The newly developed units must be designed as flats
  • The overall height of the renovated building's roof cannot exceed 7m higher than the highest part of the existing roof
  • Upon completion, the total height of your development, excluding plant structures, must not exceed 30 meters
  • Your completed development should have no visible external support structure

So it’s eyes off the ground and into the sky as we explore the hidden opportunities that can be found in the space above buildings.

Airspace opportunities: Class ZA, Class A, Class AA, Class AB, Class AC & Class AD

Here’s a quick overview of the six permitted development types that allow airspace development:

Class ZA allows for the demolition of a commercial building or a block of flats to be replaced by an individual block of flats or a detached house within the footprint of the old building, with an upward extension of up to two additional storeys in the airspace.

  • Cannot exceed a 1000 sqm footprint or 18 m in height

Class A permits the construction of two additional storeys of new flats in the airspace above detached blocks of flats.

Class AA permits the construction of up to two new storeys of flats in the airspace above detached commercial or mixed-use buildings.

  • New development can have a height of 30m, subject to a maximum additional height of 7m over surrounding roofs.

Class AB allows for new flats on terraced or semi-detached commercial buildings - even those that already have flats above.

  • Potential to add one storey of new flats to a single-storey row of shops
  • Or, up to two storeys to rows of shops that already have flats/retail space above them
  • New development can have a height of 18m, subject to the height of surrounding rooftops.

Class AC permits the construction of new flats in the airspace above terrace homes (including semi-detached houses).

Class AD permits the construction of new flats in the airspace above detached houses.

While each PDR Class differs, it's worth noting that none are permitted on Article 2(3) Land - including conservation areas. Additionally, all prevent the creation of HMOs in the future without full planning permission and do not apply to properties that already contain an HMO.

Laptop displaying a search for airspace sites

Finding airspace opportunities

For Searchland users, discovering these sites is straightforward. By applying the correct array of filters to our land-sourcing search tool, you can swiftly assemble all the suitable Class AA, Class AB, Class AC, Class AD, and Class AA sites within a chosen area, unlocking airspace opportunities in a flash. If you're unsure how to achieve the right results with a custom search, get in touch and we'll help you out!

We’d recommend you jump on a demo with our onboarding team so they can help get you set up with some of our additional features.

July 9, 2024

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