Alex Coleman BA(Hons) DipArch (Kingston)
Roberto Scalzullo ARB RIBA

Office/Residential Conversions

On 30th May 2013, the Government introduced a temporary (3 year) relaxation of the planning regulations, which allows the change of use of various types of building without the need for planning permission.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013 allows office buildings to be converted to residential units without the need for planning permission in a number of circumstances. Many local planning authorities have applied for exemptions to the order but these have only been granted in the most strategically important locations such as the City of London.

The new Class J categorises the following as permitted development:

“Development consisting of a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage to a use falling within Class C3 (dwelling houses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order from a use falling within Class B1(a) (offices) of that Schedule.”

The above is only permitted if the developer applies to the planning authority for a determination as to whether prior approval is required, known as a 'Prior Approval Application'.

This can only assess the:

  1. transport and highways impacts of the development;
  2. contamination risks on the site; and
  3. flooding risks on the site,

The development can then only commence if:

  1. the applicant receives from the local planning authority a written notice of their determination that such prior approval is not required;
  2. the applicant receives from the local planning authority a written notice giving their prior approval; or
  3. 56 days passes following the date on which the application was received by the local planning authority without the authority notifying the applicant as to whether prior approval is given or refused.

The 'prior approval' application process is still fairly onerous but there is no application fee payable. If the office building concerned has had it's permitted development rights restricted by an earlier planning permission, a new full planning consent will be needed in the usual way.

At first glance, these changes seem far reaching but in fact they are only a temporary relaxation and in fact replace one process with another. ie. the need for 'prior approval' rather than planning permission with presumption now being in favour of the developer.

Overall these regulations should be welcomed, as there are many Planning Authorities holding on to oversized vacant offices in peripheral locations in the hope that they will one day attract an employment use, despite the office market having radically changed in recent decades. Alex Coleman Associates' planning appraisal and application work confirms that many of these office buildings, particularly in town and edge-of-centre locations lend themselves far more favourably to residential use.

If you are planning to change the use of your building then we would be pleased to advise further prior to commencing building work.

To find out how Alex Coleman Associates can help with your project please call now on 01372 742535.

Office/Residential Conversions

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Alex Coleman Associates

  • Epsom Office
  • 40 Copse Edge Avenue
  • Epsom, Surrey
  • KT17 4HS
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  • Tel 01372 742535
  • Mobile 0777 936 8979
  • E-mail

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