New Planning Rules for Change Come into Effect – Regime Relaxed for Change of Use from Office to Residential

In our February edition of GD Online, we highlighted the changes which the government was proposing to introduce in relation to permitted development rights, particularly the change of use from offices (Class B1(a)) to residential (Class C3) without the need for planning permission.  The legislation came into force on 30th May 2013.

The relaxation of the requirement for planning permission for a change of use from office to residential is a new permitted development right, which allows property owners and/or developers to change the use of a building without having to go through the planning application process, which can prove time consuming and often costly.  The idea was that the new scheme allowing such change of use without planning permission would “make the best use of existing developed sites and facilitate speedier conversion of redundant office space into desirable residential accommodation”. 

That said, local authorities were permitted to apply for exemptions from the new permitted development right, and many of them have been successful in obtaining exemptions in relation to large areas of their boroughs.  For instance, the City of London has managed to obtain an exemption in relation to the vast majority of the geographical area that it covers.  Similarly, the City of Westminster has also been successful in obtaining an exemption in relation to the majority of its area.  As a result, property owners/developers in the areas which were granted exemptions will continue to require planning permission for change of use from office to residential.  Such applications will continue to be assessed by the local authority in accordance with policies contained in their Core Strategy and the Local Authority Plans. 

It should also be noted that regardless of whether a local authority has obtained an exemption, they still have the power to make an Article 4 Direction to remove permitted development rights if they consider it appropriate to do so. 

In those areas where an exemption has not been granted and there is no Article 4 Direction, the right is still subject to a prior approval process, which means that the property owner/developer must apply to the local authority where the change of use would have significant transport or highways impact, or is within a safety hazard zone, an area of high flood risk or land contamination. 

Finally, as was set out in the proposals, the new permitted development right is for a period of three years, during which the government will assess the impact of the relaxation of these new planning rules. 

If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact. This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice.