Thursday, 18 July 2013

And now – A1 to C3?

NOTE: There have been significant changes to the law since this blog post was published, and so the material printed below does not accurately reflect the current position. For completely up-to-date and fully comprehensive coverage of this topic, we would strongly recommend readers to obtain a copy of the author’s new book on the subject - ”A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PERMITTED CHANGES OF USE” published by Bath Publishing in October 2015. You can order your copy by clicking on the link on the left-hand sidebar of this page.

Planning officers who are worried about the recently introduced rules allowing change of use from B1(a) (office use) to C3 (residential use), will soon have more to worry about. The government is preparing proposals to allow conversion of “some” retail floorspace (I don’t know yet what sort of premises might be involved) to residential use.

The spin put on it by Uncle Eric at a recent conference, when he foreshadowed these proposals, referred to “dormant out-of-date offices, empty shops and boarded up buildings”, which he intends to turn into new homes. He believes this will bring life back to town centres. Some town planners might not agree. Would it really strengthen the ‘vitality and viability’ of shopping centres, or just produce more dead frontage? No doubt primary retail frontages will be excluded, and we shall have to see the detail of De-CLoG’s proposals before we can understand the possible impact, and (perhaps more important for our day-to-day work) precisely how the new PD rights will work in practice. One can only hope that they will be less ambiguous than those set out in the recent amendment to the GPDO in May.

Pickles also seems to have wittered on in the same speech about “giving rural communities new power to turn old barns and outhouses into new homes and businesses”, which he claims will boost the rural economy whilst protecting the open countryside from development. The recent changes to the GPDO definitely do not permit change of use of agricultural buildings to residential, so is the government seriously proposing to make it possible to do this in future? We shall have to see what emerges in the promised consultation document, which is promised before the end of this month, and then in the resulting amending legislation – in the form of yet another amendment to the GPDO.

If the GPDO is to be amended yet again, maybe this would be a good opportunity for De-CLoG to sort out the muddle in paragraph N of their amending order in May, so as to drop the requirement that the LPA should “have regard to the NPPF as if the application were a planning application” and make it clear that the only considerations to be taken into account are those relating to any transport and highways impacts of the development and any contamination risks or flooding risks on the site. Otherwise, why make these changes of use permitted development at all?



  1. This amendment will surely exclude traditional height street frontage. But I gather these shops currently can turn into office for a temp two year period.
    This forthcoming amendment does Internet me as I have small shop surrounded by train station and warehouses and houses on otherwise of road. No other shops in sight. So not your traditional high street frontage. So I am hoping this comes through so I can build a family home on site. Before my planning required some sort of business on site if I wanted to include residential.

  2. As Nigel Dawes points out, the proposed amendment will no doubt exclude at least primary retail frontage. I am not sure yet about secondary frontage; we shall have to see what the consultation paper says.

    As Nigel also reminds us, there is now (since the end of May) a permitted development right under Part 4 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO, that allows a temporary change of use of (among other things) shops within Use Class A1 to a flexible use falling within Class A1 (shops), Class A2 (financial and professional services), Class A3 (restaurants and cafes) or Class B1 (business) for a single continuous period of up to two years. For more details, see the item I posted on Sunday, 9 June 2013 [“Yet more GPDO amendments”]

  3. A couple of points:

    How on earth do you define primary retail frontage in legislation?

    I would imagine that the most desirable targets for conversion will be small shops in rural villages. How does this square with the government's register of community assets legislation?

  4. Primary and secondary retail frontages in town centres are always defined in the Development Plan in each LPA area. It is a formal designation that is clearly marked on the Proposals Map.

    I imagine ministers would try to avoid small shops in rural villages becoming targets for conversion. The legislation on assets of community value might well be exploited to prevent undesirable loss of village shops. We shall see how this is likely to work in practice when the consultation paper is published.

    However, I don’t envisage any difficulty in defining the types of premises to which the new right to change from A1 to C3 will apply, if the government does in fact go ahead with this proposal.

  5. Further to my comment above I note that paragraph 24 of the recent consultation document "Greater Flexibilities for Change of Use" shares my opinion that "There is no precise and consistent term that could be used to frame a national permitted development right around a particular type of retail unit or site (e.g. that with a secondary frontage." So on this point at least I have been vindicated - there is a first time for everything!

  6. [I think JNH may have intended to post this comment on my more recent piece (dated 7 August) – “Change of use from shops to residential”, but it does, of course, deal with the same topic.]

    This does mean of course, that even primary retail frontage will (at least in principle) be up for grabs. On the other hand, a planning consultant with whom I was chatting about this pointed out that some development plans are completely unrealistic in what they designate as primary retail frontage, by including premises that could never by any stretch of the imagination be let to the sort of tenants who would be looking for prime retail accommodation.

    The abandonment of any attempt to prescribe the type of retail premises to which the new permitted development right would apply may be a recognition of this, coupled with a tacit admission that (notwithstanding the ministrations of Mary Portas), many town centre shopping areas are a lost cause, and are beyond hope of resuscitation.