McLoughlin Planning is pleased to have secured prior approval for the conversion of existing offices to 6 new flats in the London Borough of Sutton.

Our client had recently purchased a prominent commercial property by Sutton train station. Whilst the ground floor has an established estate agency, the offices above had been vacant for some time. Therefore, to try and revitalise the upper floors, the landowner aspired to secure new residential flats.

As the property had previously been used as offices, we initially explored whether the property could benefit from Class MA permitted development rights. This allows the conversion of Class E properties (which incorporate several commercial uses) to provide new residential flats through a prior approval application.

Prior approval allows a decision to be made based on fixed requirements, versus local planning policies. In London, this is often a restricted route, with many boroughs having introduced article 4 directions preventing certain prior approval rights.

In this instance, the London Borough of Sutton had an article 4 preventing the conversion of offices to residential flats. However, this restriction was based on the older Class O permitted development right, which was now superseded by Class MA. Therefore, this article 4 expired on 1st August 2021. Therefore, we had a window of opportunity to apply for the desired residential flats.

Working with our client, we helped advise what would be required to ensure a robust application. We also prepared a supporting statement to visually set out how the proposal complied with Class MA requirements. This was to aid the Council to assess the fixed requirements to accurately determine the proposal.

Following submission, we worked closely with the assigned case officer to ensure a positive outcome could be reached. This included negotiating for an S106 agreement to ensure the flats remain car-free, thereby negating the need for parking provisions.

We are so pleased that within a short timeframe, we were able to help our client secure new residential accommodation. The case offers a useful example of where Prior Approval applications can offer a simpler route to securing new homes compared to a traditional planning application.

If you would like to explore whether your property could benefit from prior approval rights, including Class AA or AB for upward extensions, then please get in touch with Chris Moore at 01242 895008 or chris.moore@mplanning.co.uk.