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New law: Planning law changes in England make it easier to change buildings from commercial, business and service use to residential

Author: Atom Content Marketing

Published: 01 May 2021

Developers, property owners and funders will welcome changes to planning laws that permit developments in England altering use of property from commercial business and service (Class E) to residential (Class C3), under a new Class MA (Mercantile to Abode), provided certain conditions are met.

Developments pursuant to the new permitted development laws require prior approval from the local planning authority, and the first applications for approval can be made from 1 August 2021. The change must be implemented within three years of the approval.

The conditions include that:

  • The cumulative floor space must not be more than 1,500 square metres (so the new rules do not permit larger developments).
  • The building must have been empty for three or more continuous months immediately before the application for approval.
  • The building must have been in Class E (or, before 1 September 2020, any predecessor class) for two or more years before the application.
  • The building must not be listed, in a site of special scientific interest, a National Park or in other similar specified areas (an application can still be made if a building is in a conservation area, when special rules will apply).

As under previous permitted development rules, the application must deal with issues such as transport, noise, fire safety, contamination, flooding, etc. The planning authority will take into account the impact of industrial, storage, distribution and waste management in the area on future occupiers of the homes to be created.

There are also significant changes to permitted development of public service buildings.

Operative date

  • Now


  • Landlords, property owners and funders should consider whether the new permitted developments will enable them to carry on new and profitable activities from premises, or offer empty properties for sale or let for new uses, without having to apply for planning permission.

This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.