The government is introducing a new permitted development which it says will come into force in spring of this year, giving planning permission for changes of use from class B1(a) (offices) to class C3 (dwelling houses).
The new permitted right will relate only to the change in the use of the building. It will not cover any physical work which might need planning permission, for example new windows or doors.
Before making use of the new permitted development right, there will be a prior approval process to go through with the council. This concerns transport and highways and proposals in safety hazard zones, in flood risk areas and on contaminated land. Councils can consider whether the change of use would be satisfactory in these limited respects.
The government’s intention is to introduce the new permitted development right for three years. It will then review its operation and decide whether to let it run for a further fixed period or permanently.
The government is giving councils the opportunity to seek an exemption from the change of use right for parts of their administrative areas. Exemptions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
Councils which are not given an exemption will still have the power to make an article 4 direction removing property owners’ permitted development right to make the change of use. The difference between this and an exemption is that, if refused planning permission in an article 4 direction area, the applicant is able to claim compensation.
We will need to see the detail of the regulations to find out exactly how this new permitted development right will work. However, it should create plenty of opportunities for conversion schemes without having to make a planning application for change of use.