Changes to permitted development rights


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Controversial changes to permitted development rights, including much-publicised new rules to allow, on a temporary three year basis, change of use from office to residential without planning permission, are now in force.

Announcing the changes earlier in the year, Eric Pickles stated that the new rules allowing change of use from B1(a) office to C3 residential would provide "badly needed homes…. and make a valuable contribution to easing our national housing shortage".

In order to take advantage of the new rules, the lawful use of the property must be B1(a) (offices) and that use must have been the last use of the premises before 30 May 2013, and the new use must be implemented by 30 May 2016.

Although planning consent will not be required, owners wishing to take advantage of the new rights must make a prior approval application to the local authority, to permit consideration of transport and highway impacts, contamination risks and flood risks, and allow consultation if the council deem necessary.

In addition, whilst the change of use may not require permission, if in order to implement the change of use external changes are required that would normally require planning permission, you will still need to apply for planning permission for those changes.

When the new rules were announced, many councils applied for an exemption from them, to cover the whole or certain parts of their borough. However, when the exemptions were announced in May only 17 councils were successful, signalling that the government is committed to these measures making an impact.

However, we will watch with interest to see how much of an impact the new rules have in practice, and whether councils will use the prior approval mechanism and the requirement to obtain planning consent for external changes to wrest back some control over changes of use of their office stock, which could potentially undermine the government’s plans.

Other key changes to permitted development rights announced include:

  • Premises in B1, C1, C2, C2A, D1 and D2 use classes will be able to change permanently to a state funded school, subject to a prior approval process.
  • There are increases in the size limits applicable to extensions to both businesses and homes, for a temporary period of three years.
  • Buildings with A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, D1 and D2 uses will be permitted to change use for a period of up to two years to A1, A2, A3 and B1 uses – this with the aim of helping people looking for premises to test new business ideas and other pop up ventures so that they will find it easier to identify sites and open quickly.
  • Agricultural buildings under 500 square metres will be able to change to A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1 and D2 uses – with the aim of boosting the rural economy.

Susanna Weatherstone, Solicitor, Fladgate LLP (sweatherstone@fladgate.com)

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