Viewpoint - 13/05/2013

Changes of use: relaxing planning rules

On 9 May 2013 the government published the proposed changes to the General Permitted Development Order 1995.

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It will significantly change the rules on change of use including allowing the direct change of use of office buildings B1(a) to residential use C3 without the need for planning permission.

Other changes will affect high-street properties, town centre offices and agricultural buildings.

Download our guide to Use Classes and change of use

Office to residential changes of use

As of 30 May 2013 it will be permitted to change the use of offices from Use Class B1(a) to C3 residential use without the benefit of planning permission. The change does not permit any external changes to the building which may be required but allows the use to change leaving very little room for objection or obstruction by local planning authorities. This should also sidestep significant section 106 requirements and affordable housing quotas. This change is limited to England.

The procedure requires developers to serve a notice on the relevant local authority identifying the intention to change the use of the building. Councils can only intervene on highways safety grounds, contamination concerns, on the grounds of flood zones or in relation to safety zones designated for HSE purposes.

17 areas exempt from new rules

While many authorities sought exemption from the change in legislation, only 17 areas have been exempted including the Central Activities Zone in London (requested by the Mayor), the Tech City area of east London, selected enterprise areas, central Manchester and areas of Ashford, Stevenage, East Hampshire, Sevenoaks and the Vale of the White Horse.

High street changes of use

The government has also changed the rules in relation to high street premises to make it easier to swap from one use to another in shops, offices, restaurants, cafés, pubs and community buildings of up to 150 sq m of floorspace and for a limited duration of two years.

Agricultural changes of use

The new legislation will allow the change of use of agricultural buildings of up to 500 sq m from an agricultural use to use classes B1(a) (offices), A1 (retail), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurant), B8 (storage), C1 (hotel), or D2 (assembly and leisure). The building must have been in agricultural use on 01 July 2012. The floor-space limit is cumulative for each agricultural holding but the changes of use are considered to be permanent.

Other provisions

Within the legislation a number of other provisions have been made including an allowance for:

  1. Changes of use of any land or building to a school use, to be provided under the free schools program.
  2. Changes to the permitted development rights to extend private dwellinghouses which will come into force for a temporary period of three years.
  3. Changes to minor permitted development rights in relation to the extension of industrial and commercial buildings.


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