It’s time for airspace development to come of age, but only for those who truly understand this specialist field

Laith Mubarak, Acquisitions Director, Click Above

Last year when proposed new Permitted Development Rights for airspace development were first mooted, we were firm in the belief that they should be welcomed, not feared.  At the heart of this argument was the fact that PDRs in themselves don’t signal carte blanche for a stampede of cowboy builders to enter the housing market – certainly not in the area of Airspace Development where expertise and leadership are vital.  And we believe we’re pioneers and market leaders in this respect.

Fast forward to June 2020.  Following a long- awaited consultation, the UK Government announced a new PDR to enable upwards extensions of two additional storeys on detached blocks of flats would come into force on August 1 this year.  Having avidly followed the consultation; long supported the potential of airspace development; and worked hard to become leaders in this field, we naturally welcome this.  The opportunity this poses for this niche approach to housebuilding is huge but we’re mindful that scepticism will remain and perhaps surprisingly, that doesn’t worry us.

Supporting a level of scepticism that could be seen as detrimental to the sector in which we operate may appear counterintuitive.  However, such a highly specialised area of construction can only be carried out by experienced and knowledgeable teams.

In the four weeks after the Government confirmed the new PDR, we witnessed a six-fold increase in enquiries from freeholders interested in exploring the options for upwards extensions – a figure we couldn’t have achieved without enjoying a position of leadership within airspace development.

Importantly, we’re not only highly experienced in the technical nuances of building in the airspace, but we have a deeply entrenched appreciation of the concerns that surround this approach.

Contrary to popular belief, the new PDR does not mean that planning requirements are bypassed.  Our process has not, and will not, change.  We will continue to meet and exceed all quality and safety standards – the PDR essentially provides us with an ‘in principle’ agreement to proceed with these projects.

Nor does the new PDR mean that the needs of the existing residents will be ignored.  Indeed, their needs sit at the heart of every airspace project that we deliver.  Whilst the PDR means we’re not obliged to, we will continue to consult with those residents, providing them with the chance to raise concerns and the opportunity to actively participate in the process to extend and improve the place they call ‘home’.

The communities nearby to our developments will continue to be actively engaged in our schemes.  From school projects that engage students through to the employment of local labour, the new PDR does not remove the need for us to remain mindful of local need and investment.

Realistically, the new PDR might mean that those who don’t take these responsibilities so seriously could try to take advantage, viewing it as a shortcut to a quick buck.  Unscrupulous players are unlikely to enjoy much success, however.  From the need for specialist skills and experience; an entrenched understanding of the logistics required to deliver airspace projects; unrivalled attention to detail and safety standards; and a proven track-record, amongst many other factors, it is only truly experienced developers who stand to move airspace development forward under the new PDR.  Those, like us, who do will be those to see this important approach to housebuilding truly come of age.