Permitted development rights – further changes from 15 April

Author: Mark Harnett

The last few years have seen a shake-up of permitted development rights by the coalition government aimed at introducing greater flexibility into the planning system and promoting growth.

By way of a general reminder, permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission which allows certain building works or changes of use without the need for a planning application. Permitted development rights are generally subject to national conditions and limitations (for example limits on height, size or location etc.).

There are two tiers of permitted development rights – those that can be exercised only with the prior approval of the local planning authority, and those that can be used without the need for an application. The majority of the changes introduced by the coalition government go for the intermediate route, requiring prior approval by the local planning authority of certain specific impacts.

The first round of changes came in spring 2013. At this time the controversial right to allow change of use from office use to residential use was introduced. A second round of changes was brought in during spring 2014. Among these were the right to change use from the retail use classes (A1 and A2 uses) to residential use (subject to a prior approval process), and rights to change use from use as an agricultural building to residential use.

The government has now made further changes introducing:

  • a new permitted development right for a three year period to allow change of use from storage and distribution (buildings within use class B8) to residential use. A prior approval process will allow the local authority to consider flooding, transport, contamination, noise, air quality and the impact of introducing a residential use on the sustainability of storage, distribution or industrial services in the area;
  • the ability to move to residential use from amusement arcades and casinos. A prior approval process will allow the local authority to consider transport and highway impacts, contamination and flooding risks and, where building work to the exterior is involved, the design and external appearance; and
  • new rights to convert class A1 retail use and class A2 financial and professional use to restaurants/cafes or assembly and leisure uses, subject again in both cases to the prior approval process to enable the local authority to consider specific issues.

It had been suspected that the government would also extend the right to convert office buildings to residential use which, as stated above, was introduced in 2013 but only for a three year period. However, it now appears that this right will lapse on 30 May 2016 as originally envisaged.

As usual, changes in permitted development rights potentially bring great opportunities to developers, but there are limitations on their use and a number of pitfalls which need to be considered urgently.

Mark Harnett, Partner, Fladgate LLP (

Susanna Weatherstone, Senior Associate, Fladgate LLP (

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