Changes in permitted development rights (PDR) have made it easier than ever to change the use of Class E properties – but it can still be a complex issue as we explore in our blog this month…
Commercial Property Development
Owners of commercial property now have more opportunity than ever before to change the use of their assets – and with many companies eschewing office space in favour of allowing their staff to work from home, along with the lack of affordable housing stock, it’s an option that more owners are now considering.
The government has made a number of changes to permitted development rights (PDR) in this arena over the past couple of years, relaxing rules to allow for the change of use for commercial properties without the need for planning approval. But it’s still a complex topic – and one that requires advice from those experienced in the planning sector, says Paul Smith at Apex Planning Consultants.
Something that Paul regularly deals with are Prior Approval applications, which are a requirement of certain PDRs. In these cases, change of use may be granted by the government subject to certain specified criteria being satisfied, and confirmed as such, by the appropriate local planning authority.
These types of application are often relevant for the change of use of Class E commercial premises – such as banks, restaurants, offices, medical centres and gyms for example – to class C residential premises.
Situations which do not come under the current Permitted Development Rights include commercial properties that haven’t been in use for their specified purpose for more than two years, Listed buildings, and those situated in AONB (area of natural beauty) or conservation areas.
The good news is that prior approval applications often cost less than most other types of planning application – and a decision should be made by the council within 56 days. If prior approval is granted, the developer will normally need to carry out the work within 3 years of approval being granted.
Gaining Prior Approval
So, what will the local authority consider when it looks at your Prior Approval application? At this stage they will look only at those matters that are explicitly stated in the relevant section of the permitted development legislation – it is not subject to planning policies that relate to the principle of the proposal and whether it is acceptable, and where the interpretation of their requirements is often at the mercy of subjective opinion, which can of course differ from person to person. In general, it will look at the impact on highways and transport, any impact on the neighbours, including noise issues, the design and appearance of a proposed development and whether natural light will be provided in habitable rooms. They will also look at flood risk. Whilst these factors can mean the decision-making exercise is more straightforward, it is still important that a client seeks advice to ensure their proposal correctly addresses the requirements through correct design and layout.
In addition, it is important to ensure the proposal will satisfy other requirements of the PDR, which can mean ensuring the property has been vacant for the requisite period of time and does not exceed the maximum floorspace – before the Prior Approval application is even submitted to the local planning authority.
Something to note is that if prior approval is denied because the development does not comply with the PDR, this is not necessarily the end of the road. It is possible to make a full planning application, which will be considered by the council in the usual way.
However, if this is the case it is strongly advised that you seek expert advice and assistance before submitting any subsequent application.
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