Rules relaxed in favour of residential conversions

Rules relaxed in favour of residential conversions

Rules relaxed in favour of residential conversions – Permitted Development rights

The latest changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995 in England, became law on 6th April 2014 introducing further relaxation of planning rules in favour of residential conversions.

Key Points

New amendments introduce 4 new classes of permitted development which allow the change of use of existing retail/office and agricultural buildings into dwellings.  In addition agricultural buildings can be converted into state funded schools or registered nurseries allowing more sensitive commercial activities in rural areas.  The new classes are outlined below:

Class CA – Change of use from Class A1 (shops) to a deposit-taker falling within Class A2 (financial and professional services) e.g. bank, building society, credit union.

Class IA – Change of use from Class A1 or A2 to a dwellinghouse, or a mixed use as a dwellinghouse with either Class A1 or Class A2, and building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building into a dwelling house.

Class MA – Change of use from an agricultural building to a state-funded school or registered nursery.

Class MB – Change of use from agricultural building to a dwelling house and building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building into a dwelling house.

Main Criteria

The most significant change brought about by the GPDO amendment is the opportunity to change the use of existing retail and agricultural buildings into dwellings.  There is now significant opportunity to make use of otherwise redundant or under-used retail and agricultural buildings, particularly those located in rural areas where traditionally new residential development was likely to be resisted by local planning authorities.

As expected, there are a number of conditions that would need to be met including prior approval notice to the local planning authority which considers transport and highways impacts, noise impacts, land contamination and flood risk.  Other key criteria to meet in respect of Class IA and MB include:

  • The building was in use on 20th March 2014, or if not in use on that date, when it was last in use
  • The cumulative floor space of the building does not exceed 150 sq.m (Class IA) or 450 sq m (Class MB)
  • The external dimensions of the building cannot be extended as part of the change of use
  • The building cannot be knocked down and rebuilt, other than partial demolition to facilitate the change of use
  • Exclusions for listed buildings and sites within SSSI, SAMs or article 1(5) land
  • For agricultural buildings the maximum number of separate dwellings developed within an established agricultural unit cannot exceed 3.

Whilst these changes favour residential conversions usually resisted by most local planning authorities, the applicant must demonstrate that any technical issues arising such as flood risk and ecology mitigation are acceptable.

The government has also sought to ensure that permitted development rights under Classes A to E, Part 1 of the GPDO (such as extensions, loft conversions, outbuildings etc.) are restricted for those buildings converted to a dwelling under Classes IA or MB.  Subsequently any extensions or alterations to a dwelling post-conversion would need to be secured through planning permission.