New regulations which, amongst other things, introduce new permitted development rights to allow shops, hot food takeaways, betting offices, pay day loan shops and laundrettes to be converted to offices without the need for planning permission came into force on 25 May 2019. The new regulations are aimed at supporting housing delivery and enabling high streets to adapt and diversify.

Key changes in the Regulations includes a new class JA in Part 3, Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), which allows, with prior approval, the change of use of shops (A1), financial and professional uses (A2), hot food takeaways (A5), betting shops, pay day loan shops or laundrettes to offices (B1(a))

A new permitted development (“PD”) right has also been introduced to allow a change of use of hot food takeaways (A5) to residential use (C3) again, subject to prior approval from the LPA. Current legislation allows retail and “sui generis” uses to convert to residential, without the need for planning permission.

Whilst these new rules will undoubtedly make it easier to convert existing high street uses to residential uses, there is a real risk that it will lead to disjointed, fragmented development, which appears to be at odds with the Government’s agenda of improving the quality of housing delivered and the emphasis on place-making and high quality design in the revised National Planning Policy Framework.

Random homes in the middle of a high street, hemmed in between takeaways or other commercial premises will not enjoy the same level of residential amenity and sense of neighbourhood and community as planned development, nestling between random commercial uses. Fractured development at the cost of playing a housing numbers game is a serious compromise to make. It will, in our view, fall to local planning authorities to redress the balance and decide whether or not to impose Article 4 Directions which can remove the PD rights in specified areas.

Extending PD rights may also impact on the democratic right of local residents to participate in the planning process by being able to comment or object. More PD for smaller sites and less larger scale development it is likely to result in fewer section 106 contributions towards infrastructure and affordable housing.

Warehouse to residential?

The temporary right for changes of use from storage or distribution (B8) to residential (C3) which is due to expire on 10 June 2019 will not be extended due to concerns over the quality of housing being provided pursuant to this right.

It is curious that the same concerns are not felt over the quality of housing that will be delivered on the high street pursuant to the new PD rules on conversions of high street uses to residential. Perhaps this is because there is a perception that many high street properties are attractive, or that they already have some residential element above.

KEY NEW PD RIGHTS IN THE REGULATIONS – THE DETAIL

  • A new Class JA allows the conversion of shops, takeaways, betting offices, payday loan shops, laundrettes and other high street uses to office space. The developer must apply to the local planning authority (“LPA”) in relation to the following issues:
  • Transport and highways impacts of the development;
  • Impacts of noise from commercial and retail premises on the intended occupiers of the development; and
  • Whether the change of use is “undesirable” because of its impact on i) adequate provision of services provided by a building within A1, A3, A5 or a laundrette but only where there is a reasonable prospect of the building being used to provide such services or ii) where the building is located in a key shopping area, on the sustainability of a shopping area.

The development must be completed within 3 years starting with the date of the prior approval date and the resulting building must only be used as B1(a) offices (except to the extent that the other purpose is ancillary to the primary use as an office). No more than 500m2 of floor space can be converted under this Class and this Class does not apply to an A1 or A2 building that was already converted by Part 3 of the GPDO.

  • Extension of Class M allows takeaways to change use to housing. Class M already allows retail and sui generis uses to convert to residential without planning permission.
  • Temporary Changes of Use – PD rights have been extended in Class D, Part 4 of Schedule 2 (shops, financial, cafes, takeaway etc. to a temporary flexible use) to a wider range of community uses. A change of use from any of shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), hot food takeaways (A5), business (B1), non-residential institutions (D1), assembly and leisure (D2), betting shops and pay day loan shops to a temporary “flexible use” as shop (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurant and cafe (A3) or business (B1) , the provision of any medical or health services except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner (D1(a)), the display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire) D1 (d), museum (D1 (e)), public library or public reading room (Class D1 (f)) or Class D1(g) (public hall or exhibition hall) is allowed for a single continuous period of 3 years as opposed to 2 years.
  • Household Rear Extensions – the existing temporary right, allowing larger single storey rear extensions has been made permanent and the requirement to notify the LPA of completion has been removed under Class A, Part 1, Schedule 2 of the GPDO, although the requirement to notify the LPA of the building works beforehand remains. The rear projection levels for extensions have now permanently been increased from 3m to 6m for terraced and semi-detached homes and from 4m to 8m for detached houses. Neighbours will still be consulted and have the right to raise objections on material planning considerations such as loss of residential amenity and the LPA would be able to block plans where development would be inappropriate.