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The latest news and events at Maples Teesdale

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Class E to residential conversions: limitations lifted

The Government has now responded to its 2023 public consultation regarding changes to the permitted development regime for converting Class E (commercial, business and service) buildings to dwellings.   In an effort to increase the supply of new dwellings it has introduced legislation, removing the previous (1500 square metre) floorspace limit for conversions and also removing a requirement that buildings must have been vacant for at least 3 months before the application to convert.  These changes come into effect on 5 March 2024.

These changes apply to the conversion of all buildings within the E use class provided that they have been used for these purposes for at least 2 years. This includes offices, shops, restaurants, light industrial buildings, estate agents, health centres, and indoor sports facilities.   These changes are bound to lead to an increase in the number of dwellings converted from current Class E stock. 

However, despite the removal of the floorspace limit we are unlikely to see quite the same number of residential conversions as there were at the height of the previous office to residential boom.    This is because any new dwellings now have to meet minimum floorspace requirements as well as complying with the nationally described space standards.  Additionally, there is a list of considerations that Councils can take into account when dealing with these prior approval applications, which is more extensive than applied to the previous office to residential conversion rights.  These considerations are:

(a) the transport impacts of the development, particularly to ensure safe site access;

(b) contamination risks in relation to the building;

(c) flooding risks in relation to the building;

(d) impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development;

(e) where  the building is located in a conservation area and the development involves a change of use of the whole or part of the ground floor, the impact of that change of use on the character or sustainability of the conservation area;

(f) the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the new dwellings;

(g) the impact on intended occupiers of the development of the introduction of residential uses in an area the authority considers to be important for general or heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution, or a mix of such uses; and

(h) where the development involves the loss of services provided by a registered nursery, or an NHS health centre the impact on the local provision of the type of services lost.

There is no doubt that the overall number of dwellings converted from commercial buildings has reduced in recent years and these changes are a sensible step to increasing the supply of dwellings that now meet minimum standards.  Of course, this is no substitute for the supply of new build dwellings required from a combination of greenfield and brownfield sites.


john bosworth, use class e, planning law, development, permitted development, planning, living, hospitality & leisure, offices, retail