Freedom From Planning

The Government has recently given advance notification of its intention to enable changes of use without the need for planning permission.

Offices can be changed to residential use without permission unless they require building operations which require planning permission. Agricultural buildings (up to a floor space not yet determined)will be permitted to change to a range of uses which may include shops, restaurants, small hotels and leisure facilities.

There will be greater flexibility for change of use between businesses currently limited to 235 sq. metres. The new limit will be raised to 500 sq. metres. In all the above cases, prospective users will have to seek prior approval in respect of certain matters.

Permission will not be required for a temporary change of use for up to 2 years of empty shops, financial and professional services, restaurants, cafes and offices (Use Class B1)

“Free schools” will be allowed to use almost any building for a year without needing planning permission. There will be a streamlined approval process to enable new “free schools” to open permanently in a wider range of buildings, including offices and hotels.

Malcolm Brown, Director of Planning at Sibbett Gregory commented:-

“All of these measures are aimed at encouraging growth in the economy, bringing back into use vacant buildings, removing some of the red tape, enabling businesses to make quicker decisions. These amendments to the current Permitted Development Rules will be reviewed within 3 years. Local Planning Authorities can ask to be exempted from some of the permissions but the Government has stated that such exemptions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. We wait to see the details in the Rule Orders which must be placed before Parliament but we are expecting these Rules to come into force in the Spring this year”.