Permitted development rights
Date of Article
May 13 2013

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Changes to Permitted Development rights for change of use from Offices to Residential

13 May 2013, On 24th January 2013 the Chief Planning Officer announced several proposed changes to permitted development rights, including new provisions that will allow a change of use from B1(a) offices to C3 residential purposes. Such a change of use currently requires planning permission.

Many local planning authorities have policies in their Local Plans that seek to restrict the change of use of offices to residential accommodation, unless certain stringent criteria can be met. The proposed change to permitted development rights will remove the uncertainty currently facing many property owners, as local planning authorities (with some exceptions, see below) will no longer be able to challenge the principle of converting office buildings (and other buildings used as offices) into residential accommodation.

What will this change in Permitted Development Rights allow?
Change of use from B1(a) offices to C3 residential. This could include the upper floors of office accommodation in town and city centres, some rural offices forming part of a country estate, or indeed office accommodation created from the conversion of traditional farm buildings.

When are the new Permitted Development Rights coming into force?
The Government has advised that the new Permitted Development Rights will come into force in spring 2013 (with recent reports suggesting a start date of 30th May 2013) and will initially run for a three year period. The operation of the rights will be considered towards the end of that period, and the rights could be extended for a further period or indefinitely.

Where will the new Permitted Development Rights apply?
The Permitted Development Rights will apply nationally, although some areas may be given an exemption. The Government gave Local Planning Authorities the opportunity to apply for an exemption – with submissions to be received by 22nd February 2013. The Government only intends to grant exemptions in exceptional circumstances. It is understood that the majority of the London boroughs and bigger cities in England have applied to be exempt.

Does this mean I can just proceed with the development?
No. Whilst planning permission will not usually be required there will still be a Prior Notification procedure. The Government is yet to announce the details, but it is envisaged that the Prior Notification procedure will be similar to the process required to erect an agricultural building under Agricultural Permitted Development Rights. The main purpose of this procedure is to cover significant transport and highway impacts, development in high flood risk areas, contamination issues and safety hazard zones.

As part of the Prior Notification procedure, the Council will not be able to query the acceptability of the principle of development. If external alterations are required to the building, such as the creation of a separate access to the upper floors, or new windows and doors, planning permission will be required. However, this will relate simply to the alterations – not the change of use. There may also be an additional requirement for listed building consent to allow alterations (including internal) to listed buildings.

Building regulations will continue to apply as normal. Other Changes to Permitted Development Rights

In addition to the headline change in Permitted Development Rights (as outlined above) the Government has announced a further change aimed at helping to promote rural prosperity and job creation. Agricultural buildings will be able to convert to a range of other uses (excluding residential dwellings). There will be a size restriction and, for conversions above a set size, a prior approval process will be put in place to guard against unacceptable impacts, such as transport and noise. There is currently no further information available on the size thresholds or timetable for the implementation of these changes.