Expert Insights

Expert Insights

Transforming the high street - important changes to permitted development rights

In October 2018, the Government published a consultation paper seeking views on proposals for new and amended permitted development rights and changes to use classes with the aim of supporting the regeneration of the high street and enabling stakeholders with property and businesses on high streets to adapt and diversify, given the tough market conditions the high street is currently facing.

In May, the Government published its response to the consultation. Changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 came into effect on 25 May 2019.

We summarise below some of the key changes of relevance to those with property, or who are operating businesses, on the high street.

New rights for the change of use to offices

A new permitted development right permits a change of use of up to 500m2 floor space to offices (B1 (a)) from uses within the following use classes:

  • retail (A1), financial and professional services (A2) and hot food takeaways (A5); and
  • betting offices, pay day loan shops and launderettes.

This applies to buildings that were in such uses on 29 October 2018 or, if not in use on that date, in such uses when last in use. It does not apply where the existing use resulted from certain permitted development rights.

The new right is however subject to the prior approval by the local planning authority in respect of the following matters:

  • transport and highways impacts;
  • impacts of noise from commercial and retail premises on the intended occupiers; and
  • the impact of the change on the adequate provision of services or the sustainability of key shopping areas.

Amended rights for the change of use to residential

The introduction of dwellings into part of properties used within classes A1 or A2, betting offices, pay day loan shops or laundrettes was already allowed (eg to facilitate an upstairs flat).  This is now extended to hot food takeaways (A5), subject to the same existing matters requiring prior approval. Existing Article 4 Directions restricting these changes will also apply to the amended right.

Amended rights for temporary use of land and buildings

Temporary changes of use were already permitted from uses within classes A1, A2, A3 (restaurants and cafes), A5, B1 (business), D2 (assembly and leisure), betting office or pay day loan shops to uses falling within classes A1, A2, A3 and B1 for two years.

To support business start-ups and community uses on the high street, this right is now extended to allow a change to use:

  • for any medical or health service (D1(a));
  • for the display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire) (D1(d));
  • as a museum (D1(e));
  • as a public library or public reading room (D1(f)); and
  • as a public hall or exhibition hall (D1(g)). The period for such temporary uses is extended from two years to three.

Existing permitted development rights

Other established permitted development rights of relevance include the right to make certain changes of use within the A classes, to change from certain uses to use class D2 (assembly and leisure uses) and to change from offices to dwellings.

With many permitted rights, certain exemptions and conditions apply and in some circumstances, prior approval of certain matters must also be obtained before proceeding with any development. 

The expanded permitted development rights may well prove a useful tool for some high street property owners and businesses, giving additional flexibility and certainty in these challenging times. Care is however required to ensure that the detailed requirements of the amended Order are complied with.

This article was written by Dan Murphy. For more information, please contact Dan on or  +44 (0)20 7438 2213.

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