Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Town centre uses – new Permitted Development rights


As I indicated when writing a short time ago on the new permitted development rights for agricultural buildings, the same amendment order to the GPDO (coming into effect on 6 April) also provides additional PD rights for shops (A1) and High Street offices (A2).

The Order introduces a new Class CA into Part 3. This new class consists of a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage currently in use within Use Class A1 (shops) to use as a bank, building society, credit union or friendly society. However, this PD right is excluded in the unlikely event of the premises being within a site of special scientific interest, a designated safety hazard area or military explosives storage area, or if the site is, or contains, a scheduled ancient monument. However, unlike some of the other recently introduced PD rights, change of use under Class CA is not excluded on “Article 1(5) land” (i.e. in a National Park, the Broads, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Conservation Area or a World Heritage Site).

This change of use is subject to a condition that a site which has changed to one of these uses is not to be used for any other purpose (i.e. other than one or other of these purposes – referred to in the order as a ‘deposit taker’), except to the extent that the other purpose is ancillary to the primary use as a deposit-taker.

No prior approval is required in this case, but as soon as reasonably practicable after a change of use under Class CA the LPA must be notified of the change of use, and evidence must be provided that the site is being used for this purpose. A further change of use can only take place within this category (i.e. between a bank, building society, credit union or friendly society) and, again, the LPA must be notified of this further change of use as soon as reasonably practicable after the change together with evidence that the site is still being used for the purposes of a ‘deposit taker’.

Next, the Order introduces a new Class IA into Part 3. This authorises the residential conversion of a building falling within Class A1 (shops) or A2 (financial and professional services), or which is in combined use as a dwelling and a use falling within Class A1 or A2 (whether that use was previously granted permission under Class F of Part 3 or otherwise). In contrast to Class 3, Part J (introduced last May), this new Class includes the authorisation of building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building to residential use.

There are several restrictions on the permitted development authorised by Class IA. It only applies where the building was used for a purpose within Use Classes A1 or A2 on 20th March 2013 or, if the building was not in use on that date, when it was last in use. A further change of use under this class cannot be made where permission to use the building within Class A1 or A2 arises only from a change of use already made under Part 3 of the GPDO. Furthermore, this change of use cannot be made if the cumulative floor space of the existing building changing use under Class IA exceeds 150 square metres, or if the development (together with any previous development under Class IA) would result in more than 150 square metres of floor space in the building having changed use under Class IA.

In relation to the building works permitted by Class IA, the external dimensions of the building as a result of such works must not exceed the external dimensions of the existing building at any given point. In addition, the works must not consist of demolition (other than partial demolition which is reasonably necessary to convert the building to residential use).

As with some of the other recently introduced PD rights, change of use under Class IA cannot be made if the building is on “Article 1(5) land” (i.e. in a National Park, the Broads, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Conservation Area or a World Heritage Site) or if the site is or forms part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a designated safety hazard area or a military explosives storage area, or if the site is, or contains, a scheduled ancient monument. Development under Class IA is also excluded if the building in question is a Listed Building.

Where development is permitted under Class IA, there are various conditions attached to this PD right. To start with, it is subject to a prior approval procedure. In fact, there are two separate requirements, one in respect of the change of use and the other in respect of any associated building operations.

Before beginning the development, the developer must apply to the LPA for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to —

(i) transport and highways impacts of the development,
(ii) contamination risks in relation to the building,
(iii) flooding risks in relation to the building, and
(iv) whether it is undesirable for the building to change to residential use because of the impact of the change of use —
(aa) on adequate provision of services of the sort that may be provided by a building falling within Class A1 or A2 (but only where there is a reasonable prospect of the building being used to provide such services), or
(bb) where the building is located in a key shopping area, on the sustainability of that shopping area,


I have put the last of these in italics, because it seems to me that this gives the LPA considerable scope for resisting such changes of use, although this discretion is subject to the proviso that in order to justify a refusal of prior approval based on the need to ensure the adequate provision of services of the sort provided by that building, the LPA must be able to demonstrate that there is a reasonable prospect of the building still being used to provide such services, or (where it is located in a key shopping area) that the loss of this unit would have an adverse impact on the sustainability of the shopping area.

The provisions of paragraph N of Part 3 (introduced in May 2013) will apply in relation to any such application, and this includes the requirement that the LPA must, when determining one of these prior approval applications, have regard to the National Planning Policy Framework as if the application were a planning application. As I noted in relation to the residential conversion of agricultural buildings recently, this point was previously discussed in an earlier post on this blog on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 (“Offices to residential – a further thought”). The inclusion in Class IA of the sub-paragraph I have put in italics [(iv) above] might tempt some LPAs to seek to apply the NPPF to these residential conversions in a wider context, not necessarily confined to the criteria listed above, although the scope for this may perhaps be limited by the proviso as to the likelihood of an alternative retail (or A2 office) use in this case, or the retail impact of the loss of the retail/A2 unit if the building is in a key shopping area.

As regards building operations permitted by Class IA, these are subject to a separate (or additional) condition that before beginning the development, the developer must apply to the LPA for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to the design or external appearance of the building. Again, the provisions of paragraph N will apply in relation to this application, including the requirement that the LPA must, when determining the application, have regard to the NPPF as if the application were a planning application. In this case, however, it would appear that the NPPF will only be relevant insofar as it addresses design issues (in paragraphs 56 to 68).

Finally, there is a condition that a building which has changed use under Class IA is to be used as a dwellinghouse within the meaning of Class C3 of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order and for no other purpose, except to the extent that the other purpose is ancillary to the primary use as such a dwellinghouse.

Other conditions in the amendment order provide that the development must begin within a period of three years beginning with the date on which any prior approval is granted for that development, or the period of 56 days expires without the LPA notifying the developer as to whether prior approval for that development is given or refused, whichever is the earlier. This will work in exactly the same way as other time limits for determination of prior notification/approval applications (as previously discussed in this blog).

I referred in a previous post on this amendment order to various consequential amendments which it makes to the GPDO. I have already drawn attention to the power of the LPA to impose conditions on the grant of prior approval under Part 3. I ought also to mention the removal or restriction of PD rights for extensions and enlargements to the dwelling under Part 1 where the dwelling is created by a change of use under either Class IA (from agricultural use) or Class MB (from A1 or A2 use). I will try to find time to look at these consequential amendments in a future post, as they could prove to be a trap for the unwary.

A couple of further thoughts occur to me. First, as regards Class CA, this appears to be another instance of this government taking up and putting into practice the ideas canvassed by ‘James Hacker MP’ in his imaginary speech four years ago (see ”REAL reform of the Planning System”, published here on Tuesday, 20 April 2010. Sorry - we still don’t do internal links on this blog. To access this item, click in the side bar on the arrow next to ‘2010’, then click on the arrow against ‘April’, and click on the tile to open that post.)

As regards Class IA, this is a further example of ‘permitted’ development that may not in fact be permitted. It is rather like a double illusion. Rather than puling a rabbit out of the hat, the conjuror only appears to produce it, then with the other hand immediately whips it away again. There was in fact no rabbit, only the illusion of one.

The practical effect could be limited if LPAs are robust in using the power they will have when dealing with prior approval applications under Class IA to refuse approval if they consider that it is undesirable for the building to change to residential use, because of the impact of the change of use on adequate provision of services of the sort that may be provided by a building falling within Class A1 or A2 (where there is a reasonable prospect of the building being used to provide such services), or in those cases where the building is located in a key shopping area, on the sustainability of that shopping area. These are very much the sort of reasons that may well have been given for refusing planning permission before this new PD right was created, so arguably the new PD right may not change very much.

© MARTIN H GOODALL

4 comments:

Anthony said...

Regarding class Ia, I know of a "High st" where 7 out of 10 shops have been lying derelict for up to 9 yrs. The landlord of one of those buildings applied to convert the shop to residential. Their app was refused due to the detrimental effect it would have on the high street (!) and the lack of amenity for future occupiers.. Now with the new PD rights would they be more easy in allowing it?

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

In response to Anthony’s query (28/03/14) - If effect is given to the government’s intention to promote such conversions, then it should be easier to obtain prior approval for these conversions than it used to be to obtain planning permission for them. However, there may still be proper reasons for LPAs to refuse such prior approval applications, although these are liable to be tested on appeal, and LPAs may find that it has become more difficult than it used to be to resist these changes of use in shopping areas.

Paul Broderick said...

I presume that as is the case with the Class J powers, this new power allows a shop to converted to multiple flats providing they don't exceed a total of 150 square metres of floorspace.

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

In response to Paul Broderick (12/04/14) (and with apologies for the delay in moderating this comment), the relevant paragraph in Part 3 of Schedule 2 is IA (not J). Subject to the cumulative total of 150 sq m not being exceeded in total, I see no reason why two or more residential units of smaller size could not be created. Reference in the GPDO amendment to “cumulative” floor space does in fact seem to imply that two or more residential units are expected to be created in some cases.