Change of Use: Permitted Development, Right?
9 November 2021 by Lauren Harris
As opposed to express planning permission granted by local planning authorities, permitted development rights are granted by the government – known as deemed consent – and enable you to make a number of changes to a property without having to make an express planning application.
These rights are governed by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, where Schedule 2 sets out permitted development rights under various categories of development – including where the development involves a change of use.
Change of use is then further determined by use class legislation relating to the various categories a property can fall into depending on its use – and true to the complex and ever-evolving nature of this legislation, change of use permitted development rights can seem confusing.
This is particularly so as they have changed significantly following the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes)(Amendment)(England) Regulations 2020 (the 2020 Use Classes Amendment), which amends the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (the 1987 Use Classes Order).
What has changed?
A pivotal point that remains unchanged is that express planning permission is usually not needed when the current and proposed use of a property are within the same ‘use class’, as devised by the use class legislation.
Historically, this has meant for example, that a change of use from a post office to a hairdressers, both of which fall within Class A1 of the 1987 Use Classes Order, would not require planning permission. Whereas, owing to the various other use classes, change of use from a post office under Class A1, to an office (other than for the provision of financial and professional services) under Class B1, would!
However, following the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes)(Amendment)(England) Regulations 2020, the above example is quite different.
In fact, under the new 2020 Use Classes Amendment, multiple use classes are subsumed into broader use classes. This is exemplified by the absorption of Classes A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurants and cafes) and B1 (business) into the new and improved Class E – covering Commercial, Business and Service uses. Thus, widening the scope of permitted development rights and deemed consent for a change of use.
What are the limitations?
Some permitted development rights remain subject to certain requirements, like obtaining prior approval. For example, with reference to a Class Q change of use from agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses, prior approval is needed from the local planning authority.
Similarly, Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 allows the local planning authority, where ‘expedient’, to prevent development where planning permission has not been obtained; despite the fact that said development would be permitted ordinarily as deemed consent.
What does it all mean?
The new division of use classes is a significant change in the legislation regarding change of use permitted development rights. While important limitations remain in place as aforementioned, it means that there are fewer circumstances whereby changing the use of a property requires express planning permission.
According to the government’s very own Impact Assessment of the 2020 Use Classes Amendment, widening the scope of permitted development rights and reducing the necessity for planning applications benefits both local authorities and applicants. For local authorities for example, it is expected to alleviate the administrative burden arising from dealing with planning applications. For applicants, it is expected of course, to induce a reduction in the ‘resource, time and fee cost’ spent on applications – whether that be for full express planning applications or prior approval applications where applicable.
While some claim that the change is too deregulatory, it is undoubtedly a major shift towards providing businesses with some much needed agility in a post-pandemic society, with a growing inclination to online-shop.
If you are looking to change the use of a property, get in touch with our Planning Consultancy team here at FJG for a free 15-minute initial consultation.