What are the opportunities?
New use classes
Last year we saw several amendments made to the planning system, not only in a bid to simplify the current system but also in response to the changing face of the high street. One of the key changes we have encountered is the introduction of three new use classes:
The introduction of Class E into the Use Class Order has resulted in a broad-ranging use class which offers a greater flexibility to support the high street.
What does this mean for change of use?
It is important to note that planning permission is not required for change of use within the same use class (although there are exceptions) and so it is anticipated that the amendments will see the end of many full planning applications for minor changes of use clogging up the over-stretched planning system.
Permitted Development: change of use of commercial buildings to dwellings
Another simple reform that we have seen is the introduction of a new Permitted Development Right allowing the conversion of buildings under the new use class E to residential use under a new right known as Class MA. This new right applies to buildings of up to 1500m2 that have been in a commercial, business or service use for a minimum of two years and have been vacant for three months consecutively.
However, an implication we may see from the introduction of Class E and the new rights under Class MA could be the loss of space for rural businesses as it makes it easier to obtain planning permission for a dwelling in the countryside. This would see a conflict with the policies set out within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its emphasis on sustainability and support for the rural economy. It will be interesting to see how this transpires over time.
The new Class MA is distinct from the more familiar Class Q which allows the change the use of an agricultural building to up to five dwellings.
Conditions and limitations apply to Class MA proposals and we would be happy to discuss these with you and advise if these routes may be appropriate for you.
The White Paper and overall Planning Reform
Published in August 2020, the Planning White Paper promised reforms to the planning system to accelerate the delivery of new homes. It proposed long-term structural changes, such as a move to a zonal system, digitalisation of Local Plans with mapbased systems, replacing Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy payments with a new Infrastructure Levy and the revising of the standard method to establish numbers of new homes for an area.
Further information on the proposed reforms following the ending of a recent consultation has been scarce. It now appears that because of the ministerial changes in September, the Government has applied the brakes and the new zonal system principles may be abandoned.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government was re-branded as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Many will question whether changing the label on the tin will alter the cumbersome nature of the planning system. It will be critical to the success of any reforms to ensure that the planning system is sufficiently resourced and funded to overcome current issues we are experiencing daily, such as understaffing and backlogs within local planning departments.
As planners working in predominantly rural areas, it is vital that a greater consideration of the rural economy is given by those preparing reforms and within the context of the NPPF, especially in recognising the diversity and changing demands of the rural economy.
Things to be aware of
For more information or to discuss your planning project with us, please call Shannon.
In a very unusual project, Robinson & Hall was appointed to act for a client who identified a property in Letchworth suitable for their funeral business.
The initial enquiry was from the client’s solicitors who required an experienced RICS qualified building surveyor to advise upon the condition of the property and feasibility for conversion. Before the purchase of the property, our experienced building surveyor carried out a detailed building survey and although the property was generally sound, this identified a number of significant essential repairs, including leaks through roof lights and aspects of historic poor quality refurbishment work.
On the basis of the report findings, the client was able to negotiate a £75,000 reduction in the purchase price in lieu of the necessary repair work.
Alongside the purchase process, the client instructed Robinson & Hall to prepare a design and obtain planning permission for change of use from car showroom to funeral parlour. Our building surveyors measured the building and prepared plans, whilst our Planning department submitted a planning application for this special use under a Sui Generis planning class. North Hertfordshire District Council granted permission, much to the delight of our client, who has praised Robinson & Hall’s team for their dedication and perseverance in securing the change of use.
Under the direction of Senior Building Surveyor, Stuart Brown, the Architecture & Building Surveying department prepared a detailed design and specification, including works to rectify defects identified in the original building survey. The project was tendered to several local building contractors and one was appointed under a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) Contract to carry out the building works.
Refurbishment commenced in July 2019 but due to delays through Covid 19 restrictions was not completed until June 2020. The final cost of the building work was in excess of £600,000. We assisted our clients with contract administration and project management services through the build period.
Our client is now utilising the building with frequent on-site funerals and providing bespoke services to assist those arranging for burial in Africa.
Stuart comments “It was a very unique project and one which you do not get an instruction for every day. We were pleased to assist our clients in converting the building and adapting to meet their objectives. There were plenty of issues to overcome including navigating through the Covid pandemic. However, with careful planning, we managed to bring the project within the agreed timescales. Our client was very pleased with the completed works and the combined services Robinson & Hall provided.”
For more information or to find out how Robinson & Hall can help you please contact Stuart Brown, Chartered Building Surveyor on 01234 362923 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Many property owners will have buildings which fall under the above categories. Some may have occupancy issues additionally impacted by the current COVID pandemic. Each will have their own unique circumstances, however now may be the right time to think about how to plan for the future.
Just because something has always been a certain use doesn’t mean to say it has to remain the same use. Recent Government legislation provides opportunities for change of use across a whole range of property types including office and retail spaces right through to warehouses and agricultural buildings.
If the property is currently vacant then this provides the ideal opportunity to consider your options. There are many alternatives to consider and too many to cover in detail in a single article. However, I highlight a few initial questions to ask yourselves:
Change of use
Whatever your circumstances, ask yourself the above questions and establish whether you are maximising the returns from your buildings.
Many of the above issues may also apply to tenants wishing to review their own premises they occupy and seeking to sub-let.
There are also many other matters to consider including structural elements, building regulations approval, fire safety, MEES legislation, checking ownerships, etc.
The legislation is complicated to navigate through, however there are a wealth of opportunities. Robinson & Hall can help assess your property and implement a strategy to maximise the use from your assets.
Please contact Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying on 01234 362917 / 07976 256586 or email email@example.com to discuss your options to ensure your buildings secure a healthy future.