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      Office to Residential Use under Permitted Development – What do the reforms mean?

      On 5th March 2024, amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (“the GPDO”) are coming into force. The reforms will remove previously enforced qualifying criteria for the conversion of office floorspace to residential under permitted development rights.

      06 Mar 2024 2 minute read

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      The need to build more homes is more apparent than ever. With rental prices on the rise and many Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) under pressure to deliver bespoke housing targets, finding an appropriate mechanism to facilitate housing delivery remains at the forefront of planning legislation reforms.

      One such mechanism is development under the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), allowing for developers to carry out certain works and changes of use without the need for a full planning application. Clearly, the benefit of doing so removes the need to consult with the LPA via a formal planning application, streamlining the time taken to increase housing stock.

      The pressing need to build homes is a national one, and therefore the Secretary of State announced before parliament on the 13th of February 2024 that reforms will be made to the GPDO to amend the PD rights under Part 3 of schedule 2 to relax the qualifying criteria to allow for the change of use from commercial, business and service uses to use as dwelling houses.

      The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2024 amends Class MA to remove:

      1. The need for a vacancy test – The requirements that a building must have been vacant for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately prior to the date of an application for prior approval.

      2. Size limit of development – The floorspace upper limit has been lifted for buildings changing use. Previously, an upper limit of 1,500 sqm was imposed.

      The key impact of the removal of these requirements will be that both tenanted or vacant office buildings, regardless of their size, may qualify for the conversation to residential use under Class MA (subject to meeting the criteria and conditions under Class MA).

      The revisions will come into force on 5th March 2024.

      The updates and implementation of relaxed flexibility offer a welcome route to building more homes and, importantly, at a faster rate.

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