New changes of use: agricultural buildings or shops to houses

New government rules have just been introduced allowing changes of use without having to make a full planning application.

A change of use of an agricultural building and the land around it to residential is now allowed, together with the necessary conversion work. Eligibility criteria include being part of an established agricultural unit, a maximum floor space of 450 sq m and up to three dwellings. Buildings in conservation areas, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are excluded as are listed buildings. Alteration work permitted includes new or replacement windows, doors, roofs and walls and partial demolition but the building cannot be enlarged. There is a prior notification process to go through where the council can consider highway, noise, contamination, flood risk and whether the siting of the building makes its conversion ‘impractical or undesirable’. There is also an obligation to notify the council of the building work to ascertain whether the council wants to approve it.

A change of use to residential from a retail shop or financial/professional services (such as a bank or estate agent) and related building work is permitted, subject to various qualifications. These include a maximum floor space of 150 sq m, the external dimensions of the building not being increased and the building must not be listed or in a conservation area or area of outstanding natural beauty. Before this right can be used, prior notification to the council has to be submitted. The council can decide whether approval is required concerning highways, contamination or flood risk and whether there would still be adequate provision of services or a key shopping area would be affected. Any building work proposed has also to be notified so the council can consider whether its prior approval is needed.

These are potentially significant new rights for property owners to take advantage of but they are subject to many qualifications which require careful checking.

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