The Government has confirmed that a new permitted development right, that will allow a change of use from Class E (commercial business and service uses) to Class C3 (residential), has been introduced, says commercial property agent Prop-Search.
Following consultation, the Government has pressed ahead with changes that will introduce the new national permitted development right to create new homes. However, the right is subject to a requirement to obtain prior approval and an application for prior approval cannot be made until 1 August 2021. It must also address certain issues such as flooding, noise, adequate natural light and fire safety, as well as consider the impact on future occupiers from nearby occupiers.
Simon Toseland, a Director of Prop-Search, said: “The Government has accepted concerns that the loss of larger commercial units many have negative economic impacts on an area and would place additional demand on local services through the creation of large number of new homes. As a result, the new permitted development right will not apply to buildings with a cumulative floor space in excess of 1,500 sq m. Larger buildings will require a planning application to change their use.”
The permitted development right will also be limited to buildings that have been vacant for at least three continuous months immediately prior to the date of the application for prior approval. The Government says that focussing the right on buildings that are already vacant will protect existing businesses.
The consultation had proposed that the permitted development right be limited to premises in Class E on 1 September 2020, when the new use classes came into effect. Whilst that requirement has been dropped, it has been replaced with a condition that the permitted development right will only apply to buildings that have been in Class E (or, prior to 1 September 2020, any predecessor use class: A1, A2, A3, B1, D1(a), D1(b) or D2(e)) for at least two years before the application for prior approval.
As proposed in the consultation, the right will not apply to listed buildings.
In conclusion Simon Toseland said: “The proposals have already been met with hesitation by some, questioning whether allowing homes into high streets is going to optimise use. There is also a fear that town centres, while gaining residential space, could lose key local services like pharmacies and banks.”
“It also remains to be seen whether office buildings or gymnasiums can be turned into high quality housing, particularly as there is no requirement to follow local design codes or enter into section 106 agreements to secure essential infrastructure. Ultimately, we will have to wait and see whether these new rights will successfully improve vacant premises or lead to a mismatch spaces.”
The Government will also press ahead with changes which it says will support public service infrastructure through the planning system, including extended permitted development rights for certain public buildings and a new planning fast track for major public service developments. This right will allow schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and prisons to increase by “up to 25% of the existing footprint of the cumulative buildings on the site or 250 sq m, whichever is greater”. The rationale behind the public service fast track is to enable hospitals and classrooms to quickly expand and adapt to changing needs.