News & Insights

Office-to-residential permitted development rights to be made permanent

Lauren Walker in our Real Estate team looks at the Government’s decision to introduce a permanent permitted development right for change of use from offices to residential properties. 

The Government may, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, grant deemed planning permission for specific types of development or changes of use. This is known as a permitted development right and means that a developer in these instances would not be required to have express planning permission for such development or conversion (although some Local Authorities may require that they approve the change of use prior to conversion).

A temporary permitted development right for change of use from offices (Class B1(a)) to residential (Class C3) was granted in May 2013. The Government hoped such deemed planning permission would target underused commercial properties and encourage the development of residential properties, in line with their drive to build one million homes by 2020. This temporary right was excluded within 17 exempt commercial areas of:

  • The City of London;
  • The London Central Activities Zone which covers parts of the borough of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southward, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, Kensington and Chelsea;
  • Areas in the borough councils of Stevenage and Ashford (Kent);
  • Areas in the district councils of Sevenoaks and East Hampshire; and
  • Manchester City Centre.

This temporary permitted development right has seen some 4,000 properties given the green light for conversion and, whilst the original expiry date for this temporary right was 30 May 2016, the Government announced last October that this permitted development right will become permanent from 31 May 2016.

This new permanent right will also be expanded and is to allow for the demolition of office buildings, with new buildings for residential use. However, this will be subject to limitations (further information on which is awaited from the Government) and prior approval of any Local Planning Authority.

In addition to making the permitted development right to change from office use to residential use permanent, the Government will also be introducing a new permitted development right which will allow the change of use from light industrial and launderette use to residential use. This will also be subject to any Local Planning Authority’s prior approval and further details on this will be provided by the Government in due course.

Under the new permanent permitted development right, the 17 exempt commercial areas will continue to be exempt until May 2019 and after that date any local authority that wants to continue to require a planning application for a change of use from office to residential must have made an Article 4 direction before that date.

For those that have already received prior approval for change of use from office to residential, and those who secure permission before 30 May 2016, it is of note that they will have three years from the date of approval to complete the conversion from office to residential.