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Class E to Residential

The Government has enacted a new Permitted Development right (Class MA) which enables the conversion of Class E buildings to dwellings.

Prior approval applications under the new right can be submitted as from 1 August 2021.

Use Class E (introduced in September last year*) effectively replaces a wide range of commercial, business and service use classes and brings all of those uses into one single Use Class. Most uses that were in Use Classes A, D and B1 are now Use Class E. However, there are a few notable exceptions. Therefore, always check the Use Classes Order before making any applications.

The right allows the conversion of up to 1,500m2 of built floorspace, together with any land within its curtilage, to C3 dwelling use if the built floorspace:

  • has been used for Class E uses (or the precursors to Class E) for a continuous period of at least 2 years; and
  • has been vacant for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately prior to the date of the prior approval application.

The right does not authorise any operational development, only a change of use.

The right is subject to the prior approval process. The prior approval considerations are numerous (8 in total). In addition, a number of the prior approval considerations require wide ranging judgments to be made regarding potential impacts. As a result, a Local Planning Authority will find it relatively easy to disable the new right until such time as additional guidance is provided or until the first appeals start to be decided.

In addition, as of April this year, any dwellings created under the GPDO must meet the national space standards.

It is important to note that the new Class MA right is more restrictive than the Class O (Office to Residential) right and is subject to different considerations than Class M (A1 and A2 to Residential). For example, under Class O, the range of prior approval considerations is much narrower, there is no floorspace limit, no need to demonstrate a continuous use or a continuous period of vacancy, and the right is available in a wider range of areas. In addition, the fees are a lot lower for both Class O and Class M.

This is important because the amendments to the GPDO will remove the ability to apply for prior approval under Class O and Class M as from 31 July 2021. Therefore, if you wish to convert under either Class O or Class M, time is rapidly running out.

The new Class MA right is subject to detailed controls, criteria and conditions. Therefore, before taking any steps, it will be important to consider the legislation in detail and to take advice where necessary.

*The Court of Appeal is due to hear Rights: Community: Action’s appeal in respect of the challenges to the lawfulness of the amendments to the Use Classes Order.

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