Recent Amendments to the Change of Use System
by Conor Vallelly
Thee Government has been attempting to streamline the planning process over the past couple of years through several measures including the consolidation of planning policy guidance in the form of the National Planning Policy Framework and by reducing the requirement to apply for planning permission for minor forms of development and when seeking to convert existing buildings to other uses, for example from offices to residential.
In August 2013, the Government published a consultation proposing 5 new permitted development rights. These are:
• To allow shops to be converted into homes;
• Existing agricultural buildings to be converted into homes;
• Shops to be converted into banks and building societies;
• Certain buildings to change to nurseries providing child care; and
• Agricultural buildings to change to schools and nurseries.
These changes have now come into force as of 6 April 2014 and now broaden further the extent of permitted development rights in a significant way. The formal amendments to the General Permitted Development Order set out certain circumstances and criteria where these permitted developments rights will apply and professional advice from a qualified planning expert should always been sought before commencing any works. An important exception to these changes is that the change to allow agricultural buildings to convert to residential use will not apply in areas of National Park land and other protected areas.
These changes are a welcome boost for the development industry and individual businesses and commercial organisations alike and will further reduce the burden of red tape and assist in the contributing national economic recovery. Of further interest are the recent announcements made in the Government’s 2014 Budget. The Government has stated that it will consult on new permitted development rights for change to residential use including from warehouses and light industry structures and in allowing businesses greater flexibility to expand their facilities (such as car parks and loading bays) within existing boundaries where there is little impact on local communities.
The reaction to the Government’s consultation on these measures will be interesting to analyse and it is likely that the mooted change of use of warehouses and light industrial to residential will be controversial, much as the Government’s previous consultation on permitting the conversion of offices to residential without the need for planning permission was. In that instance a number of local authorities were granted an exemption to the new permitted development rights on the basis of the harm that this may cause to their important economic function through loss of office floor space (such as the city centre of Manchester). It is likely that similar issues will be raised in relation to this most recent announcement and that certain caveats will apply to any new right which is introduced. The change also raises interesting questions in relation to the potential attractiveness of residential uses in industrial areas and possible amenity issues however the direction of travel is in keeping with the spirit of NPPF paragraph 22 which seeks to avoid the continued protection of employment land where there is no reasonable prospect of its uptake for those purposes and to promote fully opportunities for sustainable economic development.