Office-to-Resi to be made permanent whilst a new launderette conversion right will be introduced

From 6 April 2016, amendments are made to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 ("GPDO 2015"). The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2016 ("the Amending Order") introduces new PD rights as well as putting the existing office to residential right on a permanent footing. We look at the key changes below.

Class O - Change of use of a building from office use to C3 dwellinghouses

In May 2013 the government introduced new permitted development ("PD") rights which, in certain circumstances, allowed the conversion of offices to residential dwellings without planning permission. The rights were expressed to be temporary, lasting for three years, with a requirement that the residential use was "begun" by 30 May 2016.

On 13 October 2015 the Housing and Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, announced that these rights were to be made permanent.

Laid before Parliament on 11 March 2016 and coming into force on 6 April 2016, the Amending Order makes the following changes to Class O, Part 3 of Schedule 2:

  • The previous temporary permitted development right to change buildings in office use to C3 dwellinghouses is put on a permanent footing;
  • There is a new condition that, before beginning the development, the applicant must apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether prior approval is required as to the impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the developments. This will be in addition to the current conditions which require prior approval in relation to the transport and highways impacts, contamination risks and flooding risks on the site;
  • There is also a condition that development under Class O is permitted so long as it is "completed" within a period of 3 years starting with the prior approval date. The reference to "begun" will no longer be included, a phrase which, when enacted in 2013, resulted in confusion and uncertainty for many developers;
  • The exemption from this right for areas listed in article 2(5) of the GPDO 2015 known as 'exempt commercial areas', will be removed with effect from 31 May 2019. This gives local planning authorities three years to make article 4 directions relating to Class O without incurring liability for compensation.

Other notable changes

Class M, Part 3 of Schedule 2 is extended so as to now permit the change of a use of a building from a launderette to C3 dwellinghouses, subject to the limitations and conditions set out in that use class. Also permitted are those building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building to residential use.

The Amending Order also brings in a new temporary right to change a building in light industrial use to C3 dwellinghouses (Class PA of Part 3, Schedule 2). An application for determination as to whether prior approval is required can be made on or after 1 October 2017 and the prior approval date should be on or before 30 September 2020. Class PA also imposes further conditions and limitations, including a limit to the gross floor space of the existing building of 500 square metres.

Comment

The Government has an ambition of supporting the delivery of one million new homes by 2020, as well as encouraging the best use of brownfield land: small wonder then such residential PD rights have been extended.

Developers are likely to welcome the legislative changes; making the permanent office to residential use permanent is likely to spark interest in schemes previously held back because of uncertainty surrounding the 30 April 2016 deadline.