New permitted development rights for shops and commercial

To help support the creation of much-needed homes and help give high streets a new lease of life, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that new permitted development rights allowing unused commercial premises to be converted into homes via a fast-track prior approval has been approved and permitted from August 1st 2021.

What are permitted development rights?

Permitted development rights are a list of improvements and changes you can make to a property, without typically having to apply for planning permission. Things like adding extensions, making roof alterations and adding things like porches and fences.

Some local planning authorities have an ‘Article 4’ Direction in place. This means that planning permission is indeed required, even for developments that would normally be covered by permitted development rights. These directions tend to be in place in areas of particular characterful areas or cultural/historical importance. Essentially where these types of developments might threaten the unique charm of the area.

What has changed?

A new Use Class E was introduced around the middle of 2020, covering businesses like shops, restaurants, and indoor sport (amongst others) that were all previously in separate classes. This meant that the high streets could be better able to adapt to public demand, with less red tape.

What changes are coming?

From August 2021, Class MA will come into force, which will allow a change of use from Class E to residential, subject to prior approval. This new class will replace the current Class O (office to residential) and Class M (retail to residential).

What is class MA?

Class MA is a powerful new change of use to go from Use Class E to Residential and is for any building in the following uses: Shops, Financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, offices, light industrial, medical or health services, creches, day nursery, indoor sports etc. or indeed anything in Use Class E. Any conversions under Class MA must be for residential use only and cannot be converted to an HMO for example. 

What are the conditions?

Key points to keep in mind include:

- Floor space must be no more than 1500 square metres.

- Conversions must be to residential only. For example, conversion to a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) would not be appropriate.

- The building must have been vacant for a minimum of 3 months beforehand.

To find out more about these upcoming changes take a look at the Government Town & Country Planning amendments here: