Commercial Property News

Relaxation of Permitted Development Rights – a Bonus or Not?

What are permitted development rights?

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 allows property owners and developers to make certain changes to a building without the need to apply for potentially expensive and laborious planning permission.

New regulations came into force on 30th May 2013 that increase these permitted development and change of use rights which will remain in force until 30th May 2016.

The Changes

In addition to allowing more significant extensions to both residential and commercial properties without the need for full planning, there has been a significant relaxation in planning rules for changes of use:

  • Offices can be converted into homes;
  • High street premises can be used for new types of business.  Buildings that are classed for use as retail, financial services, restaurants, pubs and hot food takeaways, offices, leisure and assembly uses can temporarily change to another use class.
  • Existing agricultural buildings under 500m2 can be used for a range of new uses such as shops or offices.  For buildings between 150m2 and 500m2, prior approval is required, to ensure that the change of use does not create unacceptable impacts, such as noise or transport problems.
  • The thresholds for business change of use increases from 235m2 to 500m2 for change of use from offices and general industrial use to storage and distribution, and from general industrial and storage or distribution to offices.

The Impact

It is too early to tell whether there has been a significant positive impact brought about by the changes but logic would dictate that the number of unsightly empty units (especially disused offices above retail units in town centres) should reduce as developers can convert these into apartments with a reduction in red tape and associated planning costs.

The increase in the various thresholds has enhanced flexibility for small businesses and the agricultural sector and there is evidence to suggest this should support growth of those businesses.

However, some argue that the changes have simply allowed developers to gain at the expense of the local economy with local authorities missing out on income streams which were previously used to invest in the local infrastructure.

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