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Build, Boris, Build!

Published: 04/08/2020

In a speech in the West Midlands at the end of June, the Prime Minister set out a Covid recovery strategy with his plan to “Build, Build, Build” in order to get the economy back on track.  This is to be facilitated with what is described as “radical” planning reform, initially extending Permitted Development and overhauling the Use Classes Order.  

On 1 August 2020, new Permitted Development rules come into force that grant planning permission for a number of key changes.

  1. This includes an increase in the types of commercial properties which can be changed into residential dwellings, and being able to demolish empty and unneeded buildings, if they are being replaced by residential dwellings. 

  1. It will enable self-contained flats to be constructed on top of certain existing, purpose-built blocks of flats to speed up the planning system to assist in the delivery of new homes.  This is positive news, it is important to note that there are a number of important specific rules that will apply, some of which are summarised here:
  • This will apply to buildings constructed after 1 July 1948 and before 5 July 2018, and expressly exclude buildings converted to residential via existing PD rights. This therefore means that buildings converted from the use from which they were built – whether with planning permission or not – do not benefit.
  • Listed buildings and Conservation Areas are excluded.
  • Existing buildings must be at least three storeys above ground level and each additional storey must not be more than three metres in height.  The extended building must not be greater than 30 metres in height.
  • Although a planning application is not required, developers must have ‘prior approval’ from the local planning authority.
  • The proposed developments may potentially be liable for Section 106 Contributions and the Community Infrastructure Levy.

  1. In addition, property owners will be able to build additional space above their homes via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation. We await the detail, but it is expected that this will involve the relaxation of current restrictions.

In tandem with these changes we have the biggest review of the Use Class Order since its introduction in 1987, introducing three new classes:

Class E:     ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ encompasses shops, restaurants, gyms, doctors’ surgeries, nurseries and offices (amongst others)
Class F1: ‘Learning and non-residential institutions’ and
Class F2: ‘Local community’ includes a shop up to 3,000 sq ft selling essential goods, including food, where there is no similar shop withing 1km, a community hall, an outdoor sport or recreation facility or a swimming pool among others.  

In practice, the new Class E, in combining much of Class A retail with B1 office and certain D1 uses, opens up a number of new changes of use that can be made without the need for planning permission, notwithstanding any amendments to frontages and signage. For example, a large shop can now freely change to a gym, an office, a restaurant, a nursery and any combination thereof.

The amendments also take a number of uses such as pubs and bars, takeaways, music venues and cinemas out of the Use Class Order altogether and they are now treated as Sui Generis uses. These will now need planning permission for any changes of use, providing further protection to key local facilities such as pubs and creating further controls for town centres against potentially unwanted uses like takeaways.

This new Use Class Order will come into force in England on 1st September 2020 but all existing Permitted Development rights in relation to the existing classes will be maintained over the next year to 31st July 2021 when there will be legislation updating the PD rights.

Only when the details are published will we have a full understanding of the effects but please do get in touch with me or with your usual Willmotts contact to discuss the impact on your property and how you may benefit from the changes.  


Simon Hanton FRICS
Director, Willmotts Chartered Surveyors 
Registered Valuer


Call Willmotts for property advice or information with selling,  buying or developing  a property please email info@willmotts.com or call 020 8222 9958

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Photo:
Thanks to Mark Potterton for sharing their work on Unsplash.