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Publish date

13 June 2024

Changes to permitted development rights: Are developers finally winning back their freedom?

Yes, you did read that title correctly – in spite of the recent legislative upheaval with changes to building control, future requirements for second staircases and, of course, the Building Safety Act 2022, there is actually some good news for developers!

Thanks to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2024 (“the Amendment Order”), as of 5 March 2024 more buildings have been brought into the scope of Class MA of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (“the GPDO”). As a result, Class MA now allows commercial properties to change to use as dwellinghouses. This could mean that a commercial site that you’ve been stuck with for a good few years may now hold newfound potential!

To make clear the changes that are taking effect, and the impact they may have on you, we’ll start by going back to basics.

What is a permitted development right?

A right that allows a landowner to make certain changes to their land or buildings without having to obtain planning permission from their local planning authority.

We must, however, caveat this with a reminder that some permitted development rights do still require an application to be made to the local planning authority for prior approval.

The introduction of permitted development rights was intended to alleviate homeowners of the administrative burden of a formal planning application where they are making relatively insubstantial changes to their homes, such as the addition of a front porch or rear extension.

In the commercial property world, permitted development rights are more commonly associated with the change of use of property from commercial to residential.

What was the position prior to 5 March 2024?

Before the Amendment Order came into force, Class MA (as set out within Part 3 of Schedule 2 of the GPDO) permitted the change of use of buildings and any land within its curtilage from commercial, business and service uses to use as dwellinghouses, but this permitted development right was subject to some stringent limitations, most notably:

  • that a building must have been vacant for a continuous period of at least three months immediately prior to the date of an application for prior approval from the local planning authority; and
  • that the cumulative floorspace of the existing building changing use under Class MA could not exceed 1,500 square metres.

These requirements restricted the scope of properties that could benefit from the permitted development right.

How has the Amendment Order changed the position?

From 5 March 2024, the Amendment Order has removed the two limitations listed above from Class MA.

It is important to note, however, that the remaining existing limitations on development under Class MA will still need to be observed.

What does this change mean for developers?

With the removal of two key limitations from the permitted development right linked to Class MA, there is a chance that owners of commercial properties who have previously been unable to make the change to residential use may now have the opportunity to do so.

The easing of the restrictions on commercial to residential use changes has the potential to bring back a whole raft of previously sidelined commercial properties as valid contenders for a change of use without the tedium of a full application for planning permission.

Owners of commercial buildings of a height of 18m or over should, however, be aware of the pending requirements for a second staircase in taller residential buildings, as we believe that buildings that are seeking to rely on the permitted development right relating to Class MA may be caught by these requirements.

Can we expect to see any further changes in the future?

The Government held a consultation, which closed on 9 April 2024, regarding further proposed changes to the GPDO. The results are not yet in, but the most noteworthy intention behind this consultation from a commercial property perspective is to further support the “gentle” increase in the capacity of our towns and cities by considering an increase in the scope of buildings that can benefit from permitted development rights relating to upward extensions.

Whilst the proposals being explored through this consultation do not relate to Class MA specifically, they do concern changing limitations on other permitted development rights, in particular:

  • changes to enable householders to build larger extensions and provide further freedom to construct outbuildings;
  • changes to the existing building upwards rights to increase the scope of buildings that can benefit from upward extensions without planning permission;
  • changes to the existing rights for demolition and rebuilding to increase the scope of buildings that can benefit from the right and to allow for a larger rebuild footprint; and
  • changes to the rights enabling the installation of electronic vehicle charging points and air source heat pumps.

….so there could be more good news to come!

In the meantime, it may be worth checking whether the release of those Class MA limitations could win your portfolio some new opportunities in the residential sector.

If you would like to speak to one of our development team about any aspect of this article please do get in touch directly or using

Heathervale House reception

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