The first systematic review on housing created through Permitted Development Rights and health, strongly suggests negative impacts which warrants further assessment by researchers and policy makers
For the attention of: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England; Local authorities (upper tier and two tier); Policymakers from countries where deregulation which prevents health and wellbeing of people forming part of the decision-making process is being implemented or considered.
The problem: Permitted Development Rights are a regulatory mechanism in the English planning system where the use of a building can be changed bypassing the standard planning process, subject to meeting prerequisite rules. Other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Germany have similar arrangements. In England, no review into the health and wellbeing impacts of housing created this way has been completed.
What we did and why: This systematic review provides the first overview of the impact of housing created through permitted development rights on health. In total, 1,999 unique records identified from a structured search of 14 databases combined with manual searching for grey literature. Literature published between January 2013 and July 2020, in England, were included. Findings were reported against health impacts (primary outcome) as well as building and neighbourhood features and exposures with known health impacts (secondary outcomes).
What our study adds: We found and reviewed 21 studies in the literature. These showed a greater number of ways that permitted development rights for conversions have negative impacts on health and wellbeing, compared to positives impacts. We also found that permitted development rights for conversions may contribute to widening health inequalities.
This warrants further assessment by researchers and policy makers. In particular, we report a significant gap in research with the occupants of the buildings themselves.
Implications for city policy and practice: This review gives an indication of the health and wellbeing outcomes bought about by one form of planning system deregulation.
Re-using buildings to create housing is in principle a good idea. However, doing so without regulation has been shown in England to be delivering variable and often poor quality housing with detrimental health and wellbeing implications. The lack of academic literature and the quality of the underpinning evidence makes it difficult to draw causal links.