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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Black

E's are Good......

As a band called the Shamen one said:

‘E’s refined, sublime, E makes you feel fine. Though very much maligned and misunderstood’.

Ok that was in reference to taking Ecstasy in the 90s club scene (God, what a way to start a blog!) rather than planning, but, the ‘maligned and misunderstood’ couldn’t be closer to the truth when it comes to Class E of the GDPO.

So Sunday 1st August (we all work on a Sunday right?) marks the start of a new era in planning with the formal introduction of the new Class MA permitted development right which allows certain Class E uses, in certain circumstances, to change to residential through the prior approval process.

Class E formally started back in September 2020 and many operatives in the planning process are still getting used to it. But having let it bed in for almost a year, the government is now bringing in a right to allow a change of Class E to residential through the permitted development process, in the same way as they have let offices change to resi, agri barns to resi and warehouses to resi through other similar rights. And we all know the controversy that those have caused right?

As with most planning announcements of late, there are a number of MPs who are far from convinced. Even at this late stage of proceedings many are lobbing in grenades to suggest that the government should halt its introduction. The Housing Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee say that it would ‘fatally undermine’ the ability of councils to plan for their areas.

Hot out of the blocks with the first consideration of an article 4 come the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who are consulting on bringing in an article 4 direction to stop such changes (the first of many I would suspect). However, any article 4 direction wont come into force until 1 August 2022 so there could still be time for plenty of changes to come through across that borough. Although given that class MA restricts the cumulative floor space of the existing building changing use under class MA to under 1,500 sqm then we wont be seeing Harrods change to fancy apartments under this new right.

So what can you do? Well rather than bore you with the details in this blog I would recommend a visit to the highly informative Planning Geek website where all this, and plenty of other PD changes are set out.

As with other permitted development routes, access to making the changes is gained through a prior approval process. There are a number of technical requirements which one needs to comply with. Not in article 2(3) land, listed building and importantly the building must be vacant for a period of 3 months prior to the submission of a Prior Approval application. Having passed ‘go’ and collected £200 on those and other requirements the local authority will then asses the prior approval application on the grounds of impact on transport & highways, contamination, Flood Risk, noise from commercial units affecting residents, and natural light to all habitable rooms.

So will we see a flurry of new Class MA Prior Approval applications come through in the coming months? Probably. Will we see a lot of authorities refuse or resist Class MAs? High Likely. Will this lead to yet more pressure on our already creaking appeals process? Without a doubt.

As Zack Simons recently pointed out it is odd that the revised NPPF was released just a matter of weeks before this so exists in a pre Class E world when we are all now operating with that in place.

It certainly doesn’t get any easier does it?.

I for one wont be spending my Sunday submitting a Class MA prior approval application (I’ll be on a tour around the Harris Gin Distillery – I think I know what I would rather be doing!) When I get back, I don’t expect the world to be a different place but I am concerned at where we are headed with planning. We now live in a very duplicitous world when it comes to planning. On one hand we can go through a simplified prior approval process to change all manner of uses to resi without too much detail, resistance and certainly no focus on ‘beauty’ as required with other planning applications. On the other hand, the requirements for a standard planning application remain overwhelmingly onerous for all but the simplest of proposals.

However with the increasing prospect of getting anything even approaching more progressive planning reforms past MPs increasingly becoming a case of Turkeys Voting for Christmas I expect that this might be the way for a while longer.

More Anon.

AB - My Own Thoughts


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