March 6, 2013

Residential development – something to look out for

You may have already heard about some interesting changes afoot in relation to permitted development rights for change of use from commercial to residential. The changes are expected this Spring and will affect permitted development rights for a change of use from B1(a) Office to C3 Residential.

This all stems from a Government announcement back in September 2012, as part of a package of measures to support economic growth. The intention is that the permitted development rights will be introduced to enable a change of use from commercial to residential purposes. For those that are interested, the proposals follow the consultation process in April 2011, which builds on the policies set out in paragraph 51 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

What does this really mean?

Firstly, it is thought that these new rights will initially only apply for a period of three years and only at the end of that period will the Government consider whether they should be extended indefinitely. Much will depend on to what extent they are utilised and what loop holes professionals find to exploit! The intention is that these proposals will be accompanied by a very strict approval process, which will consider the impact on transport and highways, high flood risks (which is obviously very topical with the year that we have just had) and the usual contamination and safety hazard issues.

You can also expect strict criteria on the types of buildings to be covered by these changes, as clearly it is not intended that great swaths of commercial property be converted for residential use across our towns and cities.

In addition, local authorities will be given the opportunity to seek exemption from specific parts for their locality. The obvious example would be where the local authority feel that the locality would suffer as a result of the change of use being implemented e.g. a loss of employment.

These changes are likely to be of particular interest to those with smaller commercial properties that don’t serve the business requirement or are difficult to let, as well as those in towns and cities looking for sites with development potential. It is also likely to be watched with interest by those in rural communities where the demand B1(a) use is no longer there.

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