New Permitted Development: Commercial to Residential

Decoration Decoration

Converting various commercial uses into dwellings without the need for express planning permission

Policy & Legislation
Author Iestyn John
Decoration Decoration

On the 31st March 2021, the Government published the latest in a series of amendments to the permitted development rights provided for by the General Permitted Developments Order (GPDO). One such amendment introduced the conversion of various commercial uses into dwellings without the need for express planning permission.

Class MA: commercial into residential

Class MA allows buildings and land within Use Class E (commercial, business and service) to be converted into dwellings. Before any development is carried out, an application for prior approval needs to be made and a number of criteria must be met. Amongst the criteria, the building needs to:

  • have been vacant for three months prior to the application;
  • have been in commercial use for at least two years. The range of eligible uses are set out within the regulations;
  • propose no more than 1,500sqm of floorspace change.

In line with other similar rights under the GPDO, this change does not apply to listed buildings or to locations within an AONB or National Park.

The same range of criteria needs to be addressed as part of any prior approval application that applies to residential changes allowable under the GPDO. However, in the case of Class MA, it is also necessary to show that the change would not have any adverse effect on the character of a conservation area (where applicable) or the amenity of future residents. These considerations clearly introduce planning judgement into the process and present additional mechanisms by which applications could be resisted by local authorities should they choose.

Demolition of statues and monuments

Part 11 (Heritage and Demolition) of the GDPO requires that the demolition of undesignated statues and monuments (i.e. are not already listed structures) is not allowed without express permission first being secured. This is a well trailed response to various attempts made to remove contentious statues.

Interlinked with the GDPO is the reformed Use Classes Order which came into force in September 2020. You can read more about the latest Use Classes Order in our article ‘Time to Regroup’ and find out about its practical application in our FAQ.

In addition to amendments made to the GDPO (read more in our article ‘Onwards and Upwards’), Class MA was introduced with the aim of increasing housing delivery whilst boosting the economy. However, all permitted development is subject to conditions and prior approval, authorised by the local planning authority. All new homes delivered through permitted development are also required to meet Nationally Described Space Standards, which you can read about in more detail in our article here.

The space standards and the additional conditions associated with Class MA conversions were included due to concerns raised by local authorities and other critics about the lack of control. They are measures put in place to help prevent exploitation of the system and avoid adverse effects to the living standards of residents or local communities. However, many are arguing the controls do not go far enough to safeguard the future of the High Street or local amenities epitomising the difficult balance to be struck when imposing conditions and trying to incentivise development.

PDR’s apply to a wide range of properties and present opportunities to developers, homeowners and business owners. Our planners routinely advise, prepare and submit prior approval applications on behalf of clients, so please get in touch to discuss the potential of your building further.

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