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New rules open up opportunities for commercial to residential renovations

23/04/2021

Commercial

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Residential

New rules open up opportunities for commercial to residential renovations

Base Senior Associate Joe Salt is a RIBA qualified architect, town planner and MRTPI (Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute).

In a regular column, he takes a look at key planning issues and shares his experience and advice. This month he takes a look at how new rules could provide more development options for commercial developers.

In September 2020 an amendment to The Town and Country (Use Classes) Order 1987 consolidated and simplified the previous use classes that designate how a building can be used. Under the new use classes, retail and business premises were reclassified as ‘Class E’ as well as other uses such as health centres, creches and indoor sports centres.

Along with a reshuffle of the use classes, new permitted development rights were introduced to reflect these changes that also relaxed the rules allowing commercial properties to be converted to residential. These include new rights allowing the demolition and rebuilding of “vacant and redundant” office and light industrial buildings into dwellings without planning permission.

This has opened up very exciting opportunities to convert a wider range of non-residential buildings into residential use (subject to the usual prior approval) particularly in constrained high street areas.

Taken together, the changes represent a very significant shift in control away from local authorities as well as the potential for a quicker turnaround for decisions. We have seen an increasing number of enquiries and have been appointed to projects through existing and new contacts who are looking to maximise the potential of redundant and vacant properties that are or were previously in commercial / retail uses.

Concerns surrounding the living standards that stem from some permitted development changes of use has driven the newly published national minimum space standards, which were adopted on April 6. These regulations will ensure it protects developments to some extent from poor quality design but also serves to increase the end value of a scheme.  

The simplification of the planning use classes, alongside the relaxation of permitted development rights, presents exciting new opportunities in areas that historically would have been problematic to obtain planning permission. The changes are being driven by the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and are hopefully an indication of the direction of travel that the government are pursuing in order to provide a boost to the construction industry.  

If you do own or are looking to purchase commercial premises and are considering redevelopment options, please get in touch and we’d love the opportunity to review the scheme!

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