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New Permitted Development Rights and Use Class Changes

The Government has made a series of changes to both the General Permitted Development Order the Use Classes Order, which will come into effect on the 31st August and 1st September 2020 respectively.

Permitted Development Rights (PDR): Additional storeys above certain buildings and the redevelopment of certain buildings for new homes.

These changes relate to further amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (GPDO).

  • Additional PDR, that takes effect on 31 August, will allow up to 2 additional storeys to be added to certain residential and commercial buildings. This applies to buildings used as flats or single dwelling houses, which can be detached or terraced. Any commercial extension to the existing building is not possible, but residential units can be added on the new upper storeys.

    There are limitations to this including:

    • If the building is a listed or within a conservation area; 
    • The maximum additional height that can be added is 7 metres; 
    • The overall height of the extended building cannot exceed 30 metres; 
    • Unless the building is detached, the extended height cannot be greater than 3.5 metres above other buildings in the same terrace.   

The above is subject to a detailed ‘prior approval’ process with the council, further details of which are included in the attached note.

  • The second relevant new PDR element, also taking effect on 31 August 2020 sees a new ‘Class ZA’ introduced, which allows for the demolition of certain vacant buildings and their replacement within the same footprint with a new residential building.

    There are also limitations to this new right, including:

    • The existing building must be free standing; 
    • The building must have fallen within the B1(a) offices, B1 (b) research and development, B1 (c) industrial processes (light industrial), and free-standing purpose-built residential blocks of flats (C3) use classes on 12 March 2020; 
    • The right does not apply if the building is listed or within a conservation area; 
    • The existing building must have been constructed prior to 1st January 1990; 
    • The footprint of the existing building cannot exceed 1,000 square metres; 
    • The height of the highest part of the roof of the old building above ground level (not including plant, radio masts and antennae) cannot be greater than 18 metres at any point; 
    • The old building must have been vacant for a period of at least 6 months immediately prior to the date of the application for prior approval 

The new rights might allow, for example, a new residential building to be up to 7 metres higher than the existing building in order to accommodate up to two additional storeys of residential accommodation, subject to not exceeding a maximum overall height of 18 metres. This will also require a detailed ‘prior approval’ process with the council, with details of this covered in our attached note.

Use Class Changes:

These changes relate to further amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987. 

  • This creates a single new use class – ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ (Class E), which incorporates the following established classes: retail, food and drink uses (Class A); business uses (Class B1a, b and c) and certain non-residential institution and assembly and leisure uses (from Classes D1 and D2). 
  • Other former D1 and D2 uses are added to a new ‘Local Community and Learning’ use (Class F.1) and a ‘Local Community’ use (Class F.2) that includes smaller retail shops. 
  • Some food and drink uses, including public houses and hot food takeaways become ‘sui generis’ – effectively requiring planning permission for any change of use. 
  • These changes and new use classes will come into effect on 1 September 2020.

The intention is to provide a more agile and flexible planning framework such that the property market (and high streets in particular) can respond to dynamic changes in commercial sectors.

There are provisions and limitations in the application of this new legislation and there will inevitably be a period of ‘road-testing’ by local authorities as they start to interpret these changes.

A transitional arrangement will apply for the period to 31st July 2021 during which the existing Use Class Order will be retained for the purposes of permitted development rights. This means that, whilst offices (former B1a use) will from the 1st September fall within Class E, the permitted development rights for a change of use to residential (B1a to C3) will remain. Further permitted development right changes are expected before July 2021.

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