Could New Proposals give More New Homes the Green Light?

Apex Deregulation of Permitted Development

The government plans to further ease restriction of planning for office-to residential conversions and brownfield development…

Deregulation of Permitted Development

Changes to the national planning policy have been brought into effect by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, which will see more deregulation of the permitted development rules for office to residential conversion.

The changes are to the permitted development right – class MA – which came into effect on 5th March 2024 and has already seen developers not having to obtain permission via a planning application to convert commercial buildings, such as office blocks, into residential homes.

Previously, commercial properties had to be empty for at least three months before they could be proposed for conversion under the Prior Approval process (an oft described light-touch planning application), but the latest announcement means this requirement has been scrapped, allowing local authorities to green light conversions without buildings being vacant. For landlords this is beneficial because it ensures they do not lose commercial revenue before submitting the application or during the period of determination by the local planning authority.

Previous rules also restricted the conversion of commercial buildings if the property was 1,500 square metres or smaller. The new proposals see that limit scrapped.

Class MA is still assessed on the basis of previous ‘conditions’ or criteria and, notably, the National Described Space Standards apply. Moreover, any external alterations, e.g. replacement windows or doors etc will not be covered by Class MA therefore a separate full planning application will be required.

Prioritisation for Brownfield Land

In other news the government is consulting on plans to ensure that ‘Big City Councils’ prioritise brownfield development in 20 of our largest cities, advocating a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ on applications made on brownfield land. The proposed changes are in consultation until 26 March, and according to the website the government will be looking to put the new changes into effect as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commented: “We pledged to build the right homes in the right places – protecting our precious countryside and building more in urban areas where demand is highest. Today’s package is us delivering on that.

“We are sticking to our plan and are on track to meet our commitment to deliver one million homes over the course of this Parliament, and the changes announced today will deliver the right mix of homes across England.’’

Paul Smith of Apex Planning commented: “There are a lot of people who are less than enthused by the plan, because many feel it will not have much effect on the delivery of new housing. However, the proposed changes will see some relaxation to the existing criteria and increased scope for the type/size of buildings that can benefit from Class MA.’’

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