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Icons CourtBernadette Hillman and Christos Paphiti outline the new permitted development right and what it means for the property sector and planners

The Government has introduced a new Permitted Development (PD) right in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Amendment Order 2021.

It will allow for a change from a variety of town centre uses to residential use

The new right

Class MA is a new permitted development right to change the use of a building and any land within its curtilage, from Class E (commercial, business or service purposes) to residential use, subject to a prior approval application, which can be made at any time from 1st August 2021.

There are some limitations:

  • The Class E building must have been vacant for at least three months before the prior approval application.
  • The building must have been in Class E use (and before that any of old classes A1 – Shops; A2 – Financial and Professional Services; A3 – Restaurants and Cafes; B1 – Business; or D1(a), D1(b), or D2(e) – non-residential Institutions, assembly and leisure) for at least two years before the application
  • There is a floorspace limit of 1,500 square metres.
  • Note that Article 4 directions already in place, preventing changes of use from office to residential under Class O will still have effect until 31 July 2022 and we would expect more Article 4 directions to follow suit.

Reasons for refusing prior approval

Aside from the floorspace threshold limit, local planning authorities will be able to refuse applications on limited but important grounds, including:

  • Transport Impacts, particularly to ensure safe site access;
  • Contamination risks;
  • Flood risks;
  • Noise impact from other commercial premises;
  • Where the building is in a conservation area and the development involves a change of use to the ground floor, which would impact on the character/sustainability of the conservation area;
  • Inadequate natural light in all habitable rooms;
  • Impact on occupiers of the introduction of residential use in an area important for general or heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution; and/or
  • Where the development involves the loss of a nursery/health centre, which would have an impact on the type of service lost to the local area.

Bernadette Hillman is a partner and Christos Paphiti a trainee solicitor at Sharpe Pritchard LLP

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This article is for general awareness only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this page was first published. If you would like further advice and assistance in relation to any issue raised in this article, please contact us by telephone or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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