Planning: New commercial into residential (Class MA) Permitted Development rights

From 1 August 2021 new permitted development ("PD") rights (Class MA) to allow for the change of use from commercial, business use and service use (Class E) to residential use (Class C3) will come into force creating potential new development opportunities for farmers and landowners.

The introduction of new Class MA follows the reclassification of the use classes in September 2020, when Class E was introduced to replace the previous use classes of A1, A2 and A3 (retail, financial services and cafés/restaurants); B1a, b and c (offices, research establishments and light industry) and D1 and D2 (health clinics, nurseries and gyms). Notably, Class B2 (general industrial) and B8 (storage and distribution) remain unchanged and are therefore excluded from new Class MA PD rights.

The new class MA replaces the two, existing commercial-to-residential PD rights, being, Class O (office to residential) and Class M (A1 shops and A2 financial and professional services to residential). These rights will continue to apply until 31 July 2021.

Restrictions

As with other PD rights, those seeking to utilise the new MA right will have to satisfy prior approval requirements on transport, contamination, flooding, noise, and natural light. Restrictions also apply to a change of use under Class MA, including that the building's floorspace:

  • must have been in commercial business and service use (Class E) (or, prior to 1 September 2020, within any predecessor use class: A1, A2, A3, B1, D1(a), D1(b), D2(e)) use for 2 years continuously prior to the application for prior approval. must be an unused commercial building that has been vacant for the 3 months prior to the application; and
  • must not be any bigger than 1,500 square metres.  

Designations

In addition, development is neither permitted by Class MA in AONBs, SSSI, the Broads, any National Park and World Heritage Sites; nor if the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless the express consent of both landlord and the tenant is obtained.

Development is however permitted under Class MA in Green Belt, Conservation Areas and the open countryside, where it is more challenging to establish new residential use in planning policy terms. This represents a significant change by the Government and will create new and interesting opportunities for delivery of residential housing.

Applications under Class MA can only be made after 1st August 2021.