The Government introduced a new Use Class – Class E – last summer, which combined a broad range of land uses including retail, office and light industrial uses, as well as gyms, medical facilities and nurseries. However, as a transitional measure until 31 July 2021, the previous Use Class Order was kept in force relative to permitted development, whilst the Government considered what permitted development rights should be given to the new land use. Over the Winter, the Government consulted on proposals to include the change of use of Class E floorspace to residential as permitted development, and the Government has today confirmed that this new permitted development right will be introduced from 1 August 2021.

It is important to be aware that the new permitted development right will be conditional upon the building:

  • Having a floorspace of no more than 1,500 sqm;
  • Having been vacant for at least 3 months prior to the date of an application for prior approval;
  • Having been in Class E for two years before benefitting from the right;
  • Not being listed, nor being within the curtilage of a listed building; and
  • Not being within protected or designated areas (i.e. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, the Broads, World Heritage Sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Monuments), with the notable exception however of Conservation Areas, where the right will apply.

The new permitted development right will also be subject to a prior approval process, which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the proposed change to residential use is acceptable in terms of:

  • Transport impact and achieving safe access;
  • Flooding and contamination risks;
  • Impact of noise from commercial premises;
  • Provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms;
  • In areas considered important for B2 and B8 uses only, the impact on residential amenity;
  • In Conservation Areas only, the impact of the loss of the ground floor Class E use on the character and sustainability of the area; and
  • In relation to health centres and registered nurseries only, the impact of the loss of such local services.

Transitional arrangements for existing Article 4 Directions which restrict the conversion of offices to residential use (under Class O of the General Permitted Development Order) have also been outlined: those that remain in place on 31 July 2021 will continue to have effect on equivalent development (i.e. the conversion of offices under Class E(c) and E(g)(i) to residential use) until 31 July 2022.

In addition to the above new permitted development right, the Government has announced the amendment of existing rights to allow for:

  • The extension, erection or alteration of school, college, university, hospital, and for the first time prison buildings, by up to 25% of the existing footprint of the cumulative buildings on the site, or 250 square metres, whichever is greater; and
  • Ports and their agents to erect buildings in connection with the operation of the port, with the intention of aligning this right with that applying to airport development.

To discuss how these proposals can present new opportunities to add value to existing property portfolios in the run up to taking effect later this year, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team for advice.