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PLANNING – CHANGE OF USE

10th October, 2013

New Permitted Development Rights Introduced

Under The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013 – which came into in force 30 May 2013 – new permitted development rights for the change of use to allow B1(a) office space to be converted to C3 residential purposes without the need for Planning Permission by landowners and developers. The right is limited to England only and will be in place for a period of three years after which it will be reviewed and may potentially be extended for a further period or indefinitely.

The measure is seen as an important contribution to the economic well-being of the country. The loss of commercial premises will be accompanied by benefits in terms of new housing units, additional construction output and jobs. The benefits are potentially very substantial and are likely to be felt at local authority level and wider.

The Use Classes

Under the Town and County Planning (Use Classes) Order 1982 (as amended) currently B1 and C3 classes are:

B1 Business – Offices (other than those that fall within A2 – Financial and professional services), research and development of products and processes, light industry appropriate in a residential area.

C3 Dwelling houses – this class is formed of three parts:

C3(a) covers use by a single person or a family (a couple whether married or not, a person related to one another with members of the family of one of the couple to be treated as members of the family of the other), an employer and certain domestic employees (such as an au pair, nanny, nurse, governess, servant, chauffeur, gardener, secretary and personal assistant), a carer and the person receiving the care and a foster parent and foster child.

C3(b) up to six people living together as a single household and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes such as those for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems.

C3(c) allows for groups of people (up to six) living together as a single household. This allows for those groupings that do not fall within the C4 houses in multiple occupation definition, but which fell within the previous C3 use class, to be provided for i.e. a small religious community may fall into this section as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger.

The Rights

A proposed change of use from commercial to residential use will be subject to a tightly drawn prior approval process covering significant transport and highway impacts and development in safety hazard zones, areas of high flood risk and land contamination. Where prior approval requirements cannot be satisfied, change of use will continue to require a planning application.

The permitted development rights will only over change of use. Any associated physical development which currently requires a planning application or building regulation consent will continue to need permission.

It is important to note that commercial uses research and development B1(b), light industrial B1(c), general industrial B2 and storage and distribution B8 will not benefit from the change of rules.

Exemption

Alongside the new permitted development rights, local authorities will be given an opportunity to seek exemption for specific parts of their locality from these new rights.

Exemptions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances where a local authority can clearly demonstrate and justify with supporting evidence why the introduction of these new permitted development rights will lead to (a) the loss of a nationally significant area of economic activity or (b) substantial adverse economic consequences as local level which are not offset by the positive benefits the new rights would bring.

If an exemption is granted, it means that the permitted development rights do not apply to that area and planning permission must therefore be sought in the normal way for any proposed change of use from B1 offices to C3 residential. Where exemptions for specified areas are granted, this will be set out in the General Permitted Development Order. The Department for Communities and Local Government has published maps shpwing the exempted areas which are certain areas within:-
• London
• Sevenoaks and Ashford in Kent
• East Hampshire

The exemption scheme does not alter the powers which local authorities have to tailor permitted development locally by means of an Article 4 Direction or a condition in a planning permission.

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