Understanding permitted development rights


Permitted development rights (PDR) mean that certain building works can be undertaken without the need to apply for planning permission. Within a wider context, however, they now apply to the conversion of commercial premises into residential. Could this approach be one way to help solve the UK’s housing crisis? We take a look at what PDR means and what it allows.


Many homeowners already understand that they can extend their properties by a certain amount without approaching their local authority for planning permission. This has helped many people add space and value to their properties. However, under recently-relaxed rules, which came into force in April 2016, owners of commercial buildings can now convert them to residential under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.


The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 classifies properties into four main groups:

Class A: retail premises including shops, restaurants and banks

Class B: factories, offices, warehouses and workshops

Class C: residential properties, hotels and hostels

Class D: health services premises, day nurseries, galleries, museums and places of worship

Within these Classes are also many sub-divisions.

An amendment to the above Order introduced a new class, J, which means that within strict guidelines, Class B1(a) offices can be converted to Class C3 (dwelling houses), without needing a full planning application.

The conditions in force mean that offices which were used as commercial premises i.e. offices, prior to 30 May 2013, which are not a listed building or a scheduled monument, and which do not form a safety hazard or a military explosives storage area can be converted into residential accommodation.


It is worth noting that storage facilities such as warehouses are exempt from PDR under Class J and their conversion to residential accommodation will not be permitted.

It is also important to remember that permitted development does not negate the need for consultation with your local authority – they will still have the final say on whether you receive approval, having considered transportation links as well as contamination and flood risks in the area. There may also be restrictive covenants on the building which will need investigating before any work is carried out.

Additionally, certain areas of the country, including the City of London, several London boroughs, outlying areas of London, and Manchester City Centre, are exempt from PDR to convert office space into residential.

Although the relaxation of PDR does not give carte blanche to developers to create homes from former commercial buildings, the new rules may go some way to alleviate England’s housing crisis and provide a sensible and sustainable way to reuse buildings which have fallen out of favour.

If you’d like more information about exactly how the rules are enforced in your area, or are looking for commercial premises with an eye to conversion, contact a member of the Eddisons team. Our experts can provide guidance and expert advice about the changes and help you understand your rights.


Written by: Joseph Fitzsimmons on Friday 12/08/2016