Wednesday, 7 August 2013
Change of use of shops to residential use
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.
As predicted in my post on 18 July (“And now – A1 to C3?”), De-CLoG has now published a consultation paper suggesting this and other changes to the GPDO which (among other things) would allow change of use of some shops to residential use. This consultation paper is only a week late, having been promised for “the end of July”.
These changes were foreshadowed in the 2013 Budget Statement. De-CLoG is proposing to create a permitted development right for change of use (together with the associated physical works – in contrast with the recent provisions for change of use from office to residential) from a small shop (Class A1) or from professional/financial services (Class A2) to residential use (Class C3). It also proposes to allow a change of use from retail (A1) to use as a bank or a building society branch (within Class A2) (but not to other uses within this use class) and from agricultural use to residential use. I will deal with these latter proposals in a separate post.
The department’s stated intention is to find new uses for shops that no longer have a future. The consultation paper gives a perfunctory nod towards the “town centre first” policy set out in the NPPF, but does not propose to restrict the new permitted development right to a particular type of retail unit or site (e.g. secondary retail frontage). The proposed amendment will allow for necessary works for the residential conversion, including a new frontage, windows and doors.
The developer will be required to apply to the LPA for prior approval in respect of design, the potential impact of the loss of the retail unit on the economic health of the town centre, the need to maintain an adequate provision of essential local services such as post offices, and the potential impact of the change of use on the character of the local area. This will allow the local authority to have regard to their local plan policies for the area. So LPAs will still have quite a wide discretion over the determination of these change of use applications. In practice, it looks as though this alone could largely negative the liberalisation that the government claims to be seeking. This point is impliedly recognised in the consultation paper, which points out that the refusal of prior approval will be subject to appeal if local authorities are found to be using it unreasonably to prevent these changes of use.
The proposed permitted development right will be limited to A1 and A2 premises of not more than 150 square metres floor area, and will allow conversion to a single dwelling house or a maximum of four flats (but not a small HMO). Premises in conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage sites (“Article 1(5) land”) will be excluded.
The consultation paper recognises that local planning authorities can issue Article 4 Directions to prevent or restrict such changes of use, although it does include a reminder that compensation may become payable.
Subject to the consultation exercise (which is due to end in October), the intention is that these further amendments to the GPDO should take effect in April 2014.
© MARTIN H GOODALL