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New legislation: Relaxed planning rules on changes from commercial to residential use to be made permanent

Commercial landowners, developers, architects and other property businesses will welcome news that temporary rules removing the need to make planning applications for certain changes of use of premises from business to residential are to be made permanent.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - November 2015

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.

The temporary rules allowed changes from B1 use (business – offices, research and development premises and light industry) to C3 use (dwellinghouses) without the need for planning permission. They were intended to regenerate commercial land, reduce the number of empty commercial properties, bring more domestic properties onto the market and reduce the environmental impact of activity on land.

The rules were to expire in May 2016, but the Government has now said it will make them permanent. However, further changes will be made when the new, permanent rules are introduced, including:

  • A three-year time limit, within which such conversions must be completed (including for conversions which have already received approval). There is currently no indication of what 'completed' will mean.
  • Allowing demolition of industrial buildings, to be replaced by residential new builds.

No changes are planned to the existing prior approval criteria. However, there are special changes in relation to exemptions, which will affect particular areas such as the City of London and the Central Activities Zone.

A new regime will also be introduced allowing conversion of light industrial buildings and launderettes to new residential homes.

Operative date

  • May 2016


  • Commercial landowners, developers and other property professionals should consider whether to resurrect conversion projects currently on hold, due to uncertainty whether the scheme would be extended, and consider new conversions.

Disclaimer: 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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