Vickery HolmanVickery Holman

The South West Specialists

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Changes to Permitted Development

Firstly there was the headline change allowing the conversion of offices to residential. However, this has not yet resulted in a large amount of vacant office accommodation being converted to new flats.

Whilst this policy is titled permitted development it does require a process of prior approval from the Local Authority. This will require a reasonable amount of upfront design work to be submitted to the Local Authority for which they can insist a planning application be made on specific legislative grounds.

Furthermore, if external works are required for the conversion then a planning application will also be required. As most office accommodation is ill suited to a direct conversion, this requirement could also affect the ability to take advantage of this policy change.

Another principle change includes the ability for commercial property within most use classes to be used for Class A1 shops; A2 financial and professional services; A3 restaurants and cafes; and B1 offices without planning permission for a temporary two year period. This new flexibility is intended to promote the vitality and viability of town centres by allowing vacant units to be let for a temporary period whilst a permanent occupier is sought or allow a business to start up.

This clearly offers the benefit of offering businesses the security of planning consent for an initial period to start up, but in reality it is only those with low start-up costs who will take advantage.

Other changes allow greater allowances in extensions of commercial units and residential dwellings. Although again in some instances prior approval could be required.

The Government seem keen to continue this policy of increasing the flexibility in planning and removing red tape. It is expected that a permitted change of use from agricultural or retail to residential use could also soon be announced.