Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Permitted Development changes – shops and barns

As several readers have noted, Nick Boles’ written Commons statement last week announcing the launch of the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) also referred to the proposed changes to permitted development rights that are expected to be made within the next few weeks, including the right to convert agricultural buildings to residential use (barn conversions) and the conversion of shops and High Street offices to dwellings.

As regards change of use from retail to residential use, Boles confirmed that the proposed changes to the GPDO will allow change of use from shops (A1) and financial and professional services (A2) to houses (C3). However, this change of use will not apply to land protected by Article 1(5) of the GPDO (National Parks, the Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, conservation areas or World Heritage Sites).

It is also clear from Boles’ statement that there will be a prior approval procedure that will enable councils to resist a change of use where they consider it important to retain adequate provision of services that are essential to the local community, such as post offices. It would appear that LPAs will be able to take account of the impact on local services when considering the potential loss of a particular shop. The onus will be on the LPA to establish that the proposal would have a detrimental impact on the sustainability of a key shopping area or on local services, should they wish to refuse the conversion, but this makes it clear that this new permitted development right will be far from automatic, and may well be strongly resisted by some authorities, either generally or in particular locations. When considering the effect on local services LPAs will be expected to take into account whether there is a reasonable prospect of the premises being occupied by another retailer, and they will need to have robust evidence to justify any decision not to permit a change of use using these prior approval tests. Nonetheless, aspiring developers may well have to take their prior approval applications to appeal where the LPA is resisting change.

In addition, the new permitted development rights will include change of use from shops (A1) to banks, building societies, credit unions and friendly societies, within Use Class A2 (but this would not allow a change of use to use as a betting shop or payday loan shop).

Turning to change of use from agricultural to residential use, up to 450 square metres of agricultural buildings on a farm will be capable of being changed to provide a maximum of three houses. However, Boles has confirmed the restriction foreshadowed in the adjournment debate on 24 February, whereby this change of use will not apply in Article 1(5) land, which (as noted above) will have the effect of excluding such development not only in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but also in the Broads, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.

As in other cases, these developments will be subject to a prior approval process, and among the issues to be considered in that context will be the risk of flooding.

These changes will also extend the existing permitted development rights for change of use to state-funded schools to additionally cover registered nurseries. Agricultural buildings up to 500 square metres will also be able to change to state-funded schools and registered nurseries.

NOTE: There have been significant changes to the law since this blog post was published, and so the material printed here (including the appended comments) does not accurately reflect the current position. For completely up-to-date and fully comprehensive coverage of this subject, we would strongly recommend readers to obtain a copy of the author’s new book - “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.



  1. Will there be any scope for Local Authorities to apply to opt out of these PD regs?

  2. It will be open to LPAs to make Article 4 Directions if they feel sufficiently strongly about this to wish to put a stop to it. On the other hand, if De-CLoG ministers think these directions are unjustified, they have the power to cancel them. There has already been a warning from the planning minister over Article 4 Directions preventing office-to-residential conversions. LPAs will need to have sound planning reasons for making such directions.

  3. As expected most LPSs are evading the will iof parlian=ment and seeking to refuse all GPDO applications for agricultural conversions. Stuff the ecomony and the governmental system. They are giving decision slast minute in any arbitrary for just before expiry. Interestingly they are giving confirmation notices stating "Your application was received on xxx" However then applying the date of their own validation for calculating the period. Part N etc detail what the application must comprise, and goes on to say ..together with the fee. LPA will not take cask and a cheque delays receipt of payment, and LPAs will accept neither until THEY allocate a number.

    Does that mean the fee must be simultaneous, because that's not possible. Or simply that it must be paid and its not part of the application. If not part of the application, the letter confirming the date of receipt must mean the date from which time runs is not dependent on the fee, but when the application papers were received.
    Murrell etc do not actually deal with this.
    Clearly te legislation does not give LPAs the power to arbitrarily decide dates or to refuse 'receipt' until such time as they fancy

  4. Regrettably, I can’t correct typing errors in comments received, but I think the gist of Michael Fletcher's comment today is clear. I take the view that the application is ‘received’ by the LPA on the date on which they physically receive both the prior application itself and the fee. If the fee is received by the LPA later than the application form, then it is the date on which they receive the fee that counts. In the case of a cheque, they ‘receive’ it on the date when they physically get the cheque, irrespective of the date on which they present it for payment and/or the date when it clears, subject to the proviso that if the cheque is cancelled or dishonoured, then as a consequence of that no valid application Will have been received by the LPA.

    I have always taken the view, and it applies with all the more force to prior approval applications, that time runs from the day after the date of receipt of the application (complete with fee, or when the fee is paid, as explained above). Thus the date of receipt is Day 0, and the next day is Day 1 of the 56-day period. The date of ‘registration’ or of ‘validation’ by the LPA is wholly irrelevant. This is an entirely internal administrative detail, which does not affect the operation of the 56-day period in any way.

    The only proviso is that if it turns out that the application is not in fact a valid application, for example if the requirements of paragraph N have not been complied with, then time cannot begin to run under the 56-day rule, even if this is only discovered some days or weeks after the application was received by the LPA. Similarly, if the proposed permitted development does not in fact comply with the qualifying criteria or with the other conditions set out in Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO, then the permitted development rights simply do not arise, and so the prior approval application will be entirely ineffective in those circumstances, and the 56-period becomes irrelevant.

    The LPA is encouraged by ministerial advice to tell an applicant if they think that the proposed change of use does not qualify as PD under Part 3, but (as I have previously pointed out) this puts the LPA in a risky position, because if they turn out to have been wrong about this, and as a result they do not formally determine the prior approval application itself within the 56-day period, the right to carry out the change of use will become automatic.