Light Industrial to Residential Use – New Permitted Development Rights Now in Force

Legislation Update
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New temporary permitted development rights are now in force allowing the change of use of certain Class B1(c) light industrial buildings to Class C3 residential use under Class PA of the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO).

For the next three years, the change of use of light industrial floorspace will not require planning permission and will instead benefit from permitted development rights, subject to a prior approval process.

Importantly, this will only apply to B1(c) buildings under 500sqm gross floorspace and the building must have been in use solely for light industrial purposes on 19 March 2014 (or when last in use if not in use on or since that date).  These restrictions, along with various other exclusions (for example, the building cannot be listed), will limit the number of buildings which qualify for the new PD rights.  But for those buildings which do qualify, the introduction of these new PD rights could potentially open up new development opportunities.

Any proposed change will be subject to Prior Approval. Local Authorities will consider whether prior approval is required having regard to highways impact, contamination risks, flood risks, and whether the change of use of the building to residential would have an adverse impact on the sustainability of the provision of industrial services and/or storage or distribution services in that area.

Despite the inclusion of this fourth test in the prior approval process, some Local Authorities remain cautious about the potential loss of light industrial units, particularly those authorities who have lost notable amounts of office stock as a result of the now permanent office to residential permitted development rights.

Some London Borough are already trying to get ahead of the game and have put in place Article 4 Directions to remove Class PA rights to prevent the loss of light industrial units.  These Directions differ from borough to borough in terms of the date they come into force and/or the areas to which they apply.  For example;

LB Hackney has an Article 4 Direction coming into force on 1 May 2018 to remove the rights across the whole of the Borough;

LB Islington has three Article 4 Directions coming into force on 3 November 2017 to remove Class PA rights in relation to the Vale Royal / Brewery Road Locally Significant Industrial Site, the Central Activities Zone within Islington and other B1(c) locations across the borough;

Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has already removed Class PA rights across various specified areas, as well as individual car repair garages outside these areas;

Southwark Council has announced consultation on an immediate Article 4 Direction removing Class PA rights in specified locations.  Class PA rights have ready been removed in relation to Railway Arches to ensure residential amenity is protected.

This list is not exhaustive and other authorities have Article 4 Directions in place, or are in the process of doing so, including Brent, Waltham Forest, Hounslow, Camden and Hillingdon.  Nor is the list exclusive to London with some authorities outside the Capital removing Class PA rights such as Crawley, Stevenage and St Alban’s.

Time will tell whether these new PD rights will have the Government’s intended effect of materially boosting housing supply by bringing underused light industrial sites into residential use, or indeed whether the Secretary of State will seek to revoke or modify any of the Article 4 Directions being pushed through.

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss any of the above, please feel free to contact one of the Firstplan team.