Class MA Permitted Development Restrictions Eased

  • Category: News
  • Date Published: 26th March 2024

On 4th March 2024, the Government enacted amendments to the General Permitted Development Order (“GPDO”) to relax restrictions on the use of Class MA permitted development rights which allow buildings of commercial use (Class E) to be converted to residential (Class C3). This allows the conversion of a large suite of high-street uses including offices, gyms, shops and professional services within Use Class E via the prior approval process, without the need for planning permission.

The changes introduced are as follows:

/ Omit the 1,500 sqm maximum floorspace limit; and
/ Omit the three-month vacancy requirement.

This means that if a building meets the requirements and conditions of Class MA, conversions from Class E to residential can be undertaken on any occupied building, with no floor space limit. As well as creating more opportunities to convert larger units to residential, this change will open up opportunities where buildings were previously only partially converted, and the remainder left as offices.

These changes seek to boost the delivery of housing through greater flexibility and planning certainty for the creation of new homes which may not have otherwise come forward under a planning application, particularly for larger sites. The removal of the vacancy requirement is considered to streamline the permitted development process and will avoid unnecessary periods of vacancy for sites.

An application for Prior Approval would require assessment of a number of technical considerations including transport, flooding, contamination, noise, adequacy of natural light, fire safety and impact on the character of a conservation area.

What restrictions apply?

Whilst applications to convert Class E to residential under Class MA are undertaken via a prior approval process, there are a few site circumstances and limitations which may apply to your site which could prevent you from utilising this right:

/ The building must have a lawful Class E use for at least 2 years prior to the submission of a prior approval application.

/ Buildings cannot be converted where they are located within a national park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a World Heritage Site or where the building is Listed or a Schedule Monument.

/ You cannot use Class MA if your site is located within ecological sites including SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) or PSAs (Special Protection Areas).

/ If the building is located within a Conservation Area and involves the conversion of the ground floor to residential, a Heritage impact Assessment may be required.

/ Article 4 directions will still apply (as set by the relevant local authority) which prevents offices or other Class E uses being converted to residential under Class MA.

If any external changes are required in order to achieve adequate natural light or meet internal space standards, a full planning application will likely be required for these changes.

IMAGE At 70 Wapping Lane in LB Tower Hamlets RJP gained permission through Class MA to convert the upper floors from Office (Class E) to 18 residential apartments (Class C3) for The Malins Group.

Do you think your site can benefit from Class MA?

The Class MA amendments provide a welcome opportunity for developers to deliver more housing through conversions, particularly on larger commercial sites.

Our planning team at Rolfe Judd can assist you with the prior approval process by preparing and submitting an application for consideration by a local planning authority and managing the prior approval process through to determination. Get in touch if you would our advice on whether your property would benefit from class ma or what information would be required to support a prior approval application.