Market Insight

Government launches consultation on new Permitted Development Rights

January 6, 2021

The consultation process for the new permitted development rights is now underway, but what does it mean for you? Our Planning team explores the changes.

When the Government amended the Use Classes Order last year, they announced that they would consult on the introduction of a range of new permitted development (PD) rights to cover the new use classes and replace the old rights for the new use class system.

On 3 December 2020, the Government launched a consultation into these revised proposals which lasts until 28 January 2021. Once passed, the new PD rights would apply from 1 August 2021.

But what are they consulting on exactly, what will change and what will it mean for investors and developers? Our planning team explores.

The Government will be consulting on the following:

• Introduction of a new PD right to convert Class E uses (commercial, business and service) to residential
• Extension of the existing Class M right for public sector building expansions to increase building heights and footprints.
o This covers public buildings including healthcare and education buildings (including universities), prisons and potentially Ministry of Defence buildings.
o This right increases the floorspace restrictions to 25% of the original building or 250 sqm (whichever is greater). This is an increase over the old rights which had a maximum cap of 100 sqm or 250 sqm for schools.
o The new right would also increase the height limit on the expansion from 5m to 6m.
• Consolidation of the remaining PD rights impacted by the recent Use Class Order changes. This isn’t likely to bring about any major changes, however, it would ensure that other rights are carried over into the new system.
The most significant of the proposed changes is the ability to convert all Class E uses to residential which would expand on the existing PD rights to convert commercial buildings to residential use and lifts some of the floorspace restrictions under the previous regulations.

Below is our initial summary and analysis of this new PD right.

What will change?

Under the proposals, it would be possible to convert all Class E uses to residential, including in Conservation Areas. However, the buildings would need to have been in Class E use from 1 September 2020.

What counts as a Class E building?

Class E buildings are those which are used for the following purposes:

• Retail
• Cafés and restaurants
• Financial services
• Letting agents
• Indoor sport
• Doctors, clinics & health centres
• Crèche
• Offices
• Research and development buildings
• Light industrial

What exclusions will apply?

As ever, there will be some areas / constraints which are excluded from the new PD right. These are similar in detail to the existing Class O office to residential permitted development right.

We explore some of these below, together with the considerations you will need to take into account as part of an application to change use.

In addition to the above, the Government intends to allow some consideration on the loss of ground floor use in Conservation Areas. The detail of how this would be assessed has not yet been released by the Government, however the consultation indicates a light-touch approach.

What will it cost to apply for a change of use?

The Government is proposing an application fee of £96 per dwelling, capped at a maximum of £4,800.

What can you expect to see as a result of the change?

Whilst the proposal to convert all Class E uses to residential is subject to change as the consultation progresses, here are our initial thoughts on what this new PD right might mean for investors, developers and landlords.

1. More opportunity to change to residential

The proposed change will allow many more uses to convert to residential than the previous regulations did. Now restaurants, indoor sports and crèches will benefit from the right to change to residential.

2. Impact on existing Article 4 directions

Existing Article 4 directions which removed the old PD rights in certain areas may no longer apply to the new PD right.

This would depend on the wording of the legislation, however there could be a period where residential conversions could take place where a Council had previously removed this PD right.

Councils with existing Article 4 Directions may seek to adopt new Article 4 directions, however this would take 1-2 years during which time applications for prior approval could be submitted.

3. More opportunities in Conservation Areas

Some of the old PD rights did not apply in Conservation Areas (e.g. retail / financial services to residential). While there is some consideration of this for the ground floor, this is no longer a blanket restriction.

This means that all Class E uses in a Conservation Area could convert to residential use under this PD right. This is important in some locations such as Winchester where much of the Town Centre is designated as a Conservation Area.

The rules on ground floor use in Conservation Areas will need to be analysed once the final regulations are published.

It is worth noting that any external alterations required to facilitate a building’s conversion (e.g. new dormer windows) would still require full planning permission in a Conservation Area.

4. Lack of floorspace restrictions will enable complete conversion

There are no floorspace restrictions for the new PD right. Some of the old PD rights had floorspace restrictions (e.g. retail to residential had a floorspace limit of 150 sqm).

This means that buildings that could only benefit from a partial conversion (due to the floorspace restriction) could be completely converted to residential.

5. More efficient planning process

Mixed use buildings (e.g. ground floor retail / restaurant with upper floor offices) would be converted under one prior approval, rather than using multiple prior approvals.

This is a more efficient process than the previous system for mixed use sites where multiple applications were required to convert these buildings to residential.

If you want to find out more information in relation to the Use Class changes or have a query on a potential new development, get in touch with our planning experts at