Government gives the ‘All Clear’ for the Introduction of a New Permitted Development Right

05 May 2021

Government gives the ‘all clear’ for the introduction of a new permitted development right, allowing a range of commercial uses to convert to housing without the requirement for planning permission, although it has introduced a number of new restrictions.

The new PD right, and other changes to the PD system, were introduced on 31st March 2021 via new regulations laid by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development etc.) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021.

Below are considered to be the most pertinent points to the new right;

1. The new class MA PD right, which will allow for a range of commercial uses to convert to housing without requiring planning permission, will be introduced on 1st August 2021.

It covers a range of uses in the new class E use class, including offices, shops, restaurants, cafes, health services, nurseries, gyms and leisure uses.

2. The new class MA PD right replaces two existing commercial-to-residential PD rights, including the office to residential right.

It will replace the class M right, which allowed A1 shops and A2 financial and professional services to convert to residential, and the Class O right, which allowed office to residential and was introduced in 2013.

The existing rights for the change of use from offices and retail to residential will continue to apply until 31 July 2021, when the new MA right will be introduced.

3. New conditions have been introduced in respect of;

  • Size; Buildings with over 1,500 square metres of floorspace will be exempt from the new rules, the objective being to “focus the right on medium sized high street sites which are more likely to be suitable for conversion”
  • Vacancy; A three-month vacancy requirement prior to the application for the prior approval

4. Prior approval.

Prior approval from the Local Planning Authority will be required to exercise the rights and can consider the following matters:

  • Transport impacts including safe site access;
  • Contamination in relation to the building;
  • Flooding risks relating to the building;
  • Impacts of noise from neighbouring commercial premises;
  • Provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms;
  • The impact of the development for future residents from the introduction of residential use in an area considered important for industrial, waste management, storage and distribution uses; and,
  • Where development involves loss of services by a registered nursery or health centre, what impact that loss of service would be.
  • The character and sustainability of the Conservation Area can be considered as part of the prior notification process where the loss of ground floor commercial uses is proposed.

5. Applicants will need to demonstrate that the building has been in the correct commercial usage for at least two years.

6. National parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and sites of special scientific interest will be exempt from the right.
However, it will apply in conservation areas (see above).

7. PD rights for schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and prisons are amended to allow such buildings to expand to a greater extent.

The changes to class M of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) increase the threshold of the footprint and height these “public service buildings” can increase to under the PD rights. A special prior approval process specifically for university buildings has been introduced, with the objective of allowing for local consideration of the impact on design, heritage and archaeology, and highways and transport.

Other PD Rights also introduced on 31st March include the following;

There are new regulations which change planning rules around the removal of statues and other monuments.

  • An amendment to class B of the GPDO exempts statues, memorials and monuments, which have been in place for at least ten years on the date of proposed demolition, from the permitted development right for the demolition of buildings. As such, the demolition of such structures will require permission. The government has confirmed that when determining applications to remove historic statues, “local planning authorities will need to have regard to the government’s policy that these should be retained and explained rather than removed”, adding that it is “committed to ensuring… they are not removed without proper consideration and public consultation”.

The new regulations expand PD rights for ports.

  • Coming into force on 21st April, the change to class B of the GPDO will allow a greater range of buildings to be erected without needing a planning permission, bringing the rights into line with those for airports. There is a requirement to consult the local authority.

For more information on any of the above, please contact Anne Pawsey MRTPI,