Change of Use of Properties

The government have recently confirmed the new permitted development right (PDR) for change of use of properties from Use Class E (commercial, business and service use) to Use Class C3 (residential use). Use Class E includes shops, cafes, offices, restaurants, banks, nurseries and gyms. The change has been introduced in The Town, and Country Planning (General Permitted Developments etc.) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021, which came into force on 21st April 2021, but the PDR will come into effect on 1st August 2021.

The PDR means that formal planning permission will not be required, but anyone wanting to take advantage of it will still need to apply to the local authority. The application will be via a fast track approval process, and there will be a fee of £100 per dwelling (up to a maximum of £5,000).

Requirements for PDR to Apply

The local authority will assess the impact of the change of use on flooding, transport, contamination, noise impact, natural light in habitable rooms and impact on future residents if the building is in an area the authority considers important for heavy industry waste management, storage and distribution. In cases where the change is from a children’s nursery or health centre, the authority will also consider the impact of the loss of these services.

In order for the PDR to apply, a few requirements must be met:

  • The PDR only applies to buildings with a total floor space of up to 1,500 sq metres.
  • The property must have been used for Class E use for at least two continuous years before the date of the application. As a reminder, Use Class E was introduced in September 2020 to replace previous Use Classes A1, A2, A3, B1, D1(a), D1(b) or D2(e). A use under these previous use classes will still count toward the two years, so long as it has been continuous.
  • The building must have been vacant for at least three continuous months immediately before the date of the application.
  • The PDR will still apply to properties in Conservation Areas, but the local authority will also consider the impact on the character or sustainability of the area if the change of use includes the ground floor (or part of the ground floor) of a building. However, the PDR will not apply in other protected land such as listed buildings, properties in national parks, world heritage sites, areas of outstanding natural beauty or sites of special scientific interest.

Convert Commercial Buildings to Residential

The introduction of the PDR reflects the government’s efforts to provide more homes and revitalise the high street, particularly in the wake of the Covid pandemic. The hope is that with more flexibility to convert commercial buildings to residential, there will be fewer unused buildings on the high street, and it will inject more life into town centres by increasing the amount of accessible, affordable housing.

Here to Help

If you are looking to buy commercial property for conversion to residential use, please contact one of our Real Estate Solicitors on 0161 941 4000 or email The Myerson Solicitors Real Estate Team