In a year which has already seen some of the most radical changes to the planning system in a generation, from August 1 new Class MA (‘mercantile to abode’) legislation comes into force, replacing the previous regime of office and retail permitted development to residential uses (Class M).
What are the headlines?
Subject to certain conditions the new laws allow the change of use from business category E to residential.
What is Business Category E?
Former use A1 (retail shops), A2 (financial and professional services) A3 (restaurant), B1 ( business), D1(a) (non-residential institution) D1 (b) (creches, nurseries etc), D2(e) (assembly and leisure).
This means that properties which formerly fell under classes A3, D1(a), D1(b), and D2(e) will now benefit from permitted development rights which they did not do before
Certain Conditions – what are they?
The rights do not apply to buildings where more than 1500 sq metres are to be converted. This is ten times more for retail to residential than currently permissible (Under Class M) but is a restriction on current office to residential conversions.
Properties must have been in Class E use for at least two years continuously prior to any application and also vacant for at least three months. Closure due to Covid does not meet this qualification where the property continues to be occupied by the tenant.
There are also other restrictions including those regarding Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest or World Heritage Sites – or safety hazard areas or military training areas!
What about Conservation Areas?
Unlike the previous regime, the new PDR applies in Conservation Areas. There will however need to give consideration to the impact on the ‘character and sustainability’ of the area in the prior approval process.
Are there any other Prior Approval matters to consider?
Most of these continue to be the same as under the current guidelines – transport and highways, contamination, flood risk, and the provision of adequate natural light to habitable rooms. There will also be consideration given to loss of certain local infrastructure and agent of change (e.g. effect of change of use to existing neighbouring businesses).
There will also be requirements to meet space standards for the created homes – none less than 37 sq. metres.
As with all new legislation it will take a while to see how these changes will be received, and for the detail to be fully explored. But combined with the recent changes to the Use Class order this will undoubtedly herald a radical change to the High Street.
If you would like to discuss this or explore how this may impact upon your property please contact Edward Dent (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For full details on the legislation please visit the Government website – click here.