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New Changes to Class E Permitted Development Rights

Changes to Permitted Development legislation in England come into effect today (5th March) that now offer powerful new abilities to change a variety of commercial properties to residential use without the need for planning permission.

Class MA of the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) has enabled buildings in Class E (comprising town centre uses such as shops, offices, restaurants, cafes, health centres, etc) to change to Residential use since its introduction in 2015. However, this was limited to a floorspace of 1,500sqm, and required the property to have been vacant for at least 3 months prior.

The new changes now in-force remove both this floorspace limit and vacancy requirement, creating the ability to change an unlimited volume of floorspace from commercial use to residential in one go.

Previous restrictions remain and this permitted change does not apply in Areas of Natural Beauty, National Parks, World Heritage Sites, Listed Buildings, and a range of other natural and historic designations. In these locations, Planning Permission is required for any commercial-to-residential Change of Use. The new rights can be applied in Conservation Areas as before, though an impact assessment is required if the change is intended on a ground floor property.

Local authorities can also introduce Article 4 directions which remove certain Permitted Development rights across a defined geographical area. The new changes to Class MA development may encourage more local authorities to introduce these in relation to commercial-to-residential Changes of Use in areas of concern to give them control over this type of development.

As before, the Change requires a Prior Approval to be submitted to the local authority, informing them of the intention. This requires payment of a planning fee per unit, and will require some supporting information to be provided (each local authority has their own requirements for this which should be checked prior to submitting the Prior Approval). The local authority has 56 days in which to respond or request further information, after which development may commence.

If you have any questions about converting a commercial property to residential, or would like more information about Permitted Development rights, please contact a member of our Planning & Development team, at

Planning Services, Consultants Graham + Sibbald (