UCL study spells out unhealthy impacts of permitted development homes

UCL honorary associate professor Helen Pineo said the small space and poor window provision in PDR homes was ‘really worrying for health and wellbeing’.

The analysis, which examined thousands of units created under so-called PDR rules in the London boroughs of Hillingdon, Hounslow, Lambeth and Southwark pinpointed 29 distinct health impacts linked to such homes.

PDR has led to the creation of 100,000 homes through the adaptation of redundant commercial and retail units with around 9,000 created last year.


It found that people living in such homes suffered from street and neighbourhood noise, pollution, a shortage of space and a lack of fresh air in their homes.

She added: ‘These properties are probably housing people with a number of health problems already. Imagine a family with asthma problems, living near a busy road and being put in one of these homes with poor air quality, no ventilation, overheating problems. It just makes things worse, it’s a real health equity problem.’

Almost one in five (14 per cent) of the 218 respondents said they did not have a single window they would open. And 37 per cent said they could not keep comfortably cool in the summer in their homes.

‘We need far better regulations – and enforcement of these regulations, not just for permitted development but for all housing. But this permitted development is really at the sharp end of the worst kind of examples we’re seeing.’

The NIHCR research aims to better determine the health impacts of PDR housing by cross-referencing NHS records with a new database of PDR homes and comparing the results with a control group.

‘There’s a housing crisis in England,’ Clifford said. ‘But I think if your solutions lead to more people living in worse quality housing, that’s a false economy that leads to all kinds of other issues.

The research was led by Barlett professor of spatial planning and governance Ben Clifford, who has authored several reports on the poor quality of PDR units, including the 2020 government-commissioned paper that led to reform of the permitted development regime – notably introducing a requirement that all homes had windows.

In March, his team was awarded £2 million by NHS research arm the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHCR) to probe further the health problems linked to PDR homes, using the latest report as a starting point.