Amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 are in force from 30 May 2013. The Government has sought to reduce the regulatory burden of applying for planning permission by relaxing what can be built or used without it.

Offices to Residential

The most significant change is to allow a change of use from offices to residential but there are a number of requirements that must be met before any internal conversion can be undertaken. The building must be used (or last used) for a use within Use Class B1(a). This may exclude offices that are part of a mixed use.

It does not apply to an office that is listed or a scheduled monument or in an exempted area. This includes specific areas that applied to be removed from the provisions, such as the Central Activities Zone in London. It also includes a safety hazard zone, or a military explosives storage area.

If the office conversion requires external alterations or is already subject to restrictions on its use in conditions or a S106, it may also require planning permission to be applied for in any event.

If applicable, an application for prior approval must be made to the local planning authority containing details of the proposal. This may include a requirement to submit information on contamination, flood risk and/or transport impact if the local planning authority considers necessary. It has 56 days to refuse or approve the ‘prior approval’ application and if it is approved or no decision is made, the developer can proceed.

The use must begin by 30 May 2016 or there will be a risk of enforcement action by the local planning authority.

Other changes

Other changes include:  

  • Allowing extensions on detached homes up to 8 metres and any other dwelling houses up to 6 metres subject to prior approval procedures
  • Allowing a flexible use of 150 square metres of any A1-A5 (shops and restaurants), B1 (business), D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) land or buildings for a single continuous period up to two years subject to notification procedures
  • Permitting larger extensions than previously allowed to warehouses, offices and shops subject to notification procedures
  • Change of use to a state-funded school
  • Change of use from an agricultural building

Many of the changes have included a sunset clause of 30 May 2016 when the change of use must have begun or by when the development must be completed. All of the permitted changes are subject to conditions and limitations and the Order should be read and professional advice sought before any work is undertaken.