Class E to Class C – Business to residential use

December marked the start of latest Government consultation on further reform to the planning system, seeking the industry’s views on Class E (Business, Commercial and Service) to Class C3 (Residential). In effect, this will enable offices, retail, leisure and restaurant uses (amongst others) to be converted to residential use as a PD right, rather than requiring planning permission.

In some respects, this consultation represents administrative housekeeping in terms of carrying forward permitted development rights already available through Class M and Class O of the GPDO into Class E. However, from our perspective, the right has the potential for a more dramatic impact.

In essence, the Government is seeking to introduce a right which is unbound by floorspace limitations or being in conservation areas or AONBs (unlike with Class M and Class O).

Should the PD Right be carried forward as the Government intends, qualifying sites and buildings, which were previously protected by Local Plan policies that guarded their current uses (e.g. retail protection policies), find those polices are rendered ineffectual at preventing the loss of retail floorspace.

At first glance, this could be seen as bad news, but in a post-COVID world, this PD right could provide flexibility and work as a catalyst for positive change. It certainly marks the start of the evolution of our highstreets and shopping zones.

We are currently advising a number of clients on the potential implications of this and will be making submissions to the consultation.