Class E to Residential (Class MA) – Further amendments come into effect (March 2024)

Legislation Update
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When ‘Class MA’ of the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) came into force in 2021, it provided the mechanism to widen the scope for buildings to be converted to new homes without planning permission. The introduction of Class MA allowed for any building within Use Class E (commercial uses such as shops, restaurants, offices, gyms, etc.) to be converted to a residential use via a prior approval process. Like many permitted development rights, a number of conditions and limitations were applied to the legislation. Two notable exemptions were the requirements for a subject property or building to be vacant for three months prior to any application for prior approval, and a floorspace cap of 1,500sq.m GIA, above which Class MA was not applicable.

On 14th February 2024, following a public consultation undertaken last year, the Government further loosened the requirements by scrapping the three-month vacancy requirement and the ‘cap’ of 1,500sq.m for any application for prior approval submitted on or after 5th March 2024. There is now no cap to the floorspace which can be converted under Class MA, and no requirement for the building to be vacant for three months prior to the application being submitted. The intention of removing these restrictions is to allow more under-used Class E buildings to be converted to residential use, in turn providing a boost to the supply of homes.

The Government’s explanatory memorandum accompanying the changes explains that the flexibility of these permitted development rights should make an important contribution to the supply of homes. In the eight years to March 2023, permitted development rights for this change of use have delivered 102,830 new homes. This included 9,492 homes in the last year, which accounted for 4% of the overall housing supply in England.

The remainder of the Class MA prior approval requirements and tests will still apply. Significantly, the changes will not affect properties that are currently the subject of Article 4 Directions, which prevent the use of buildings for Class MA or where restrictive planning conditions are in place.

If you have any questions about Class E-to-residential PD rights or Class E uses more generally, please feel free to contact a member of the Firstplan team.


Article by Myranda Morrison