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(Updated) Class MA – commercial, business and service uses to dwellinghouses

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This allowance came into force on 1 August 2021 and replaced Classes O, PA and part of Class M of the 2015 General Permitted Development Order. The allowance fulfilled a manifesto promise made by the Conservative Government to release more commercial property types for use as housing. It also addressed part of the fallout from the changes to the Use Classes Order in 2020.

What is allowed

The Allowance provides for the change of use of

  • For buildings used prior to 1st September 2020 –

(i)Class A1 (shops);
(ii)Class A2 (financial and professional services);
(iii)Class A3 (food and drink);
(iv)Class B1 (business);
(v)Class D1(a) (non-residential institutions – medical or health services);
(vi)Class D1(b) (non-residential institutions – crèche, day nursery or day centre);
(vii)Class D2(e) (assembly and leisure – indoor and outdoor sports), other than use as an indoor swimming pool or skating rink;

  • For buildings first used after 1st September 2020 – Class E (commercial, business and service).

To dwellings up-to the limitations as set out below.

Where can I use it

On existing properties within the above uses classes within England where and subject to the following restrictions.

What is not allowed

You may not change the use of a building where:

  • The property was not vacant for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately prior to the date of the application for prior approval, in this case vacant should be taken to read as empty with no furniture or stock and in a position where the use could not easily restart. (amended under from 5 March 2024)
  • Is not in one of the named classes for a continuous period of at least 2 years prior to the date of the application for prior approval;
  • You are converting more than 1,500 square metres; (amended under from 5 March 2024)

Or the building is or within:

  • a site of special scientific interest;
  • listed building or land within its curtilage;
  • a scheduled monument or land within its curtilage;
  • a safety hazard area;
  • a military explosives storage area;
  • an area of outstanding natural beauty;
  • an area specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 41(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(1);
  • the Broads;
  • a National Park;
  • or a World Heritage Site;
  • if the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy you need the express consent of both the landlord and the tenant.
How do I use the allowance

This is a prior approval permitted development allowance and as such it is subject to an assessment of the following criteria:

(a)transport impacts of the development, particularly to ensure safe site access;

(b)contamination risks in relation to the building;

(c)flooding risks in relation to the building;

(d)impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development;

(e)where the building is located in a conservation area, and the development involves a change of use of the whole or part of the ground floor,the impact of that change of use on the character or sustainability of the conservation area;

(f)the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses;

(g)the impact on intended occupiers of the development of the introduction of residential use in an area the authority considers to be important for general or heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution, or a mix of such uses; and

(h)where the development involves the loss of services provided by (i) a registered nursery, or
(ii)a health centre maintained under section 2 or 3 of the National Health Service Act 2006(2),the impact on the local provision of the type of services lost.

(i) where the development meets the fire risk condition (18m or 7 storeys) the fire safety impacts on the intended occupants

An application for prior approval for development under Class MA may not be made before 1 August 2021.

Development must be completed within a period of 3 years starting with the prior approval date.

PD Allowances to use the building within Class C4 are automatically removed.

Compliance to the national floorspace standards for all applications submitted on or after 6th April 2021.

Our Notes

Class MA fulfils the Governments manifesto promises to free up the planning system much to the dismay of a wide number of professional bodies. It is one of the widest reaching permitted development allowances published and will be subject to abuse by those who seek to benefit from the more open planning regime it promotes.

At TPX we can only encourage developers to use this PD allowance responsibly and to not use it to game the system as it is far easier for the Government to take away than it is to give.

Most notably whilst Class MA is available to buildings within a conservation area it takes away the external alterations allowance afforded by the predecessor Class M. This trade-off means that a building must be both standards compliant from the outset but also capable of being converted in its current form.

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