Back to Insights

Amendments (August 2021)

An addition to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) has been issued by Government which outlines a new proposal which permits the conversion of commercial buildings (Use Class E and specified Sui Generis) into residential use (Use Class C3) subject to conditions and prior approval. This process will be contained within Class MA of Part 3 of the GDPO and will come into force on August 1st 2021.

As the owner of a commercial building or as a developer, you may wish to take advantage of these new permitted development (PD) rights. In the absence of any detailed procedural guidance, our checklist below will assist you in bringing forward your development.

Step 1 – Consider Eligibility

The new PD rights allow for sites which fall into the new Use Class Order E (commercial) to be converted into Use Class Order C3 (residential) without planning permission.

To qualify for this new PD right, the site must:

  • Have been vacant for a minimum of three months prior to the date of application
  • Have been in continuous use under one of the uses listed under the new Use Class E for a minimum of two years prior to the date of the application
  • Be less than 1,500 square metres in size

The site will not qualify if the site:

  • Forms part of a Site of Specific or Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Is a listed building, scheduled monument or comprises land/buildings that are curtilage listed
  • Forms part of a safety hazard area
  • Forms part of a military explosive’s storage area
  • Is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • Is in an area an area specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 41(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(1)
  • Is occupied under an agricultural tenancy (unless the express consent from the landlord and tenant can be obtained)

Step 2 – Confirm Commercial Use

As aforementioned, to qualify for Class MA, the site must have been in commercial use listed under the new Use Class E for a minimum period of two years and vacant for a minimum of three months prior to the application submission date. Any restrictive conditions on previous planning permissions need to be taken into consideration including those limiting a building to a specific use.

Step 3 – What am I allowed to do?

Certain conditions attached to the Permitted development rights restrict development.

  • An application for Class MA cannot not be made before the 1st August 2021
  • The site must only be converted into residential use
  • A planning application will need to be submitted for any works not listed above

Step 4 – Prior Approval

In all cases, an application for Prior Approval will need to be made to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) ahead of any works. A Prior Approval application considers:

  • transport and highway impact;
  • contamination and flood risk;
  • flood risk;
  • impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development;
  • the provision of natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses; and
  • any impacts on intended occupiers where the site is in an area that the Local Authority deems to be more important for (i) general or heavy industrial use, (ii)waste management or (iii) storage and distribution.

A Prior Approval application will also be required to consider impacts of the site on the character and sustainability of the site where the site is located in a conservation area or where the proposals involve a change of use on part of or the whole of the ground floor. Also, the impact on the area where development involves the loss of services provided by a registered nursery or a health centre.

In areas presently subject to Article 4 Directions restricting Class O development (office to residential), following 1st August 2022 these will cease to have effect and the freedoms available under Class MA will be applicable.

Step 5 – Application Checklist

  1. Evidence that the existing, authorised use of the building is commercial.
  2. Evidence that the site has been vacant for a minimum of three months prior to the application.
  3. A Prior Approval Notice application form.
  4. A site location plan
  5. Existing and proposed floorplans
  6. Existing and proposed elevations

Step 6 – Determination Process

  • The LPA will consult the highway authority, to assess if the site can achieve safe access.
  • The LPA will consult with the Environment Agency to identify if the site is in Flood Zone 2 or 3, or Zone 1 and whether there are critical drainage problems.
  • The LPA will assess any contamination risks, taking account of any proposed mitigation measures.
  • The LPA has an 8-week statutory period to determine your application, which can be extended through agreement.

Step 7 – Future Considerations

  • Development should commence within three years from the date of Prior Approval being granted.
  • Once development is permitted, the site should remain in Use Class C3 (dwelling house) and for no other purpose except for ancillary use to the dwelling house.

Step 7 – Complete development within 3 years of the date on the decision notice and notify the LPA.

The new legislation text associated with Part 3, Class MA is available here.