The Big ‘E’ and Permitted Development Opportunities


Written by Andrew Tregay

Andrew is an Associate Planner with BoonBrown providing planning consultancy across a broad spectrum of sectors from planning applications to land promotion. He has experience with residential, commercial and retail based schemes both big and small working for a diverse range of clients.

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Welcome to Class E

We have been living with the revised Use Classes Order for over a year now, giving some time to reflect on its implications and the new opportunities it has created. The Governments drive to reduce perceived bureaucracy and to broaden the scope of flexible land uses may not have been popular in some circles, but it has certainly shaken the system up and provided commercial landlords opportunities to diversify their potential occupant pool without the need to engage with the planning system.

Firstly, the new E Use Class brings together quite a diverse range of uses from the now revoked A1/2/3, B1, D1(a-b) and parts of D2 Use Classes. Therefore, uses such as office, retail, some leisure, café and nurseries are all in the same use classes rather than being spread across several, leading to interesting interactions and potentially opportunities for more flexible use of floorspace. As the use of a building can move freely within its current use class (without requiring express planning permission) it should, in theory, be easier to change the occupier and open a more diverse range of potential tenants for owners without having to engage formally with the planning system.

This change is significant, and it is well worth owners of commercial, recreation or retail buildings taking another look at the potential opportunities to expand their potential pool of tenants.

As one door closes another opens…

Obviously, the changes to the Use Classes Order left many of the ‘legacy’ Permitted Development Rights allowing a change of use to residential, in limbo. The transition period is now behind us and elements of Part 3 of Schedule 2 (changes of use) such as Class O have fallen away or been altered.

Yet new opportunities have arisen… enter Class MA (part 3 of Schedule 2) boldly striding in to fill the void left by the loss of Class O and friends. Class MA allows commercial, business and service uses (Use Class E) to convert to new dwelling houses. As you might expect this comes with a number of stipulations, limitations and conditions as well as the requirement for a prior approval application. Many of the conditions will be familiar to those acquainted with the former Class O or Class P however many of the issues caused by the, arguably, limited prior approval requirements under Class O (and others) have been tightened up. Those wishing to utilise their Class MA permitted development rights must now also give consideration to natural light and impacts on conservation areas, thus requiring a more comprehensive submission especially as Class MA has not been popular with many in local government.

Overall, some doors to residential conversions have been closed however a big one has opened up and it is certainly worth seeing what lies beyond.

In Summary

Recent changes to planning Use Classes have made quite considerable changes to how different uses are grouped, with the new Class E being particularly diverse.

Class MA allows for the diverse range of uses under Class E to be converted to residential subject to a prior approval application.