A Guide to Permitted Development Rights in 2021

What’s new in permitted development for 2021?

Commercial To Residential Conversion

Permitted development (PD) rights are an alternative to full planning permission applications. Permitted development rights or PD rights – for short – lay out a strict rule for anyone looking to make alterations without submitting planning applications. The most known example of this is a single storey, rear extension to a property that must extend to a maximum of 3 metres from the existing dwelling. Many people however do forget, the process must be signed off by a building reg’s officer who will make sure the build has been completed to building regulations at each stage.

In March 2021, Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced a big change to PD Rights in England & Wales. On 1st August 2021 the government will introduce the new Class MA change of use permitted development rights. A change that is expected to transform buildings and create huge potential for property entrepreneurs.


Class MA

Class MA looks to offer a solution to our dwindling high streets in town centres by offering a new process for commercial to residential conversion. Whether its retail buildings that have never recovered since the crash or offices that will never be filled again since the working from home trend, post – covid. These buildings and spaces offer a unique opportunity to meet the unending housing crisis. Many investors and developers have the same problem, finding viable sites to build or convert into accommodation. Class MA opens the door to many of the disused properties previously only obtainable via a change of use planning application.

All PD rights have clauses and restrictions and Class MA is no different. The restrictions for the use of Class MA extend to location, size and historic use and occupation.


Use Class E

Commercial buildings can only be converted to residential if they fall under ‘Use Class E’. In September of last year a new way of classifying buildings came into effect. The use classes of A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional), A3 (restaurants and cafes) as well as parts of D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) are no longer individual use classes. To make it simpler they have all been regrouped under use Class E. Under the new Class MA any Class E building can be converted into residential.



Historically under permitted development rights the size of commercial building you could convert to residential was limited to a mere 150sqm. However from 1st August 2021, under Class MA this will increase significantly to 1,500sqm. To put that into perspective; that’s a regular 3-bedroom house increasing to the size of a luxury apartment block.



It is important to stress that Class MA only applies to vacant buildings. You cannot have tenants in situ when you proceed with prior approval. The property MUST BE vacant for a minimum of 3 months before this point. If you’re looking for commercial properties now, make sure you leave enough time for tenants to vacate and seek prior approval before buying the property.



Where the commercial property is situated will ultimately decide if it can be converted using Class MA. The government implemented this caveat in the permitted development rights to stop developers from getting too carried away with the commercial to residential conversions. Places that you would expect such as military explosive areas, which if you were planning to develop on then maybe property investment is not for you!

Other locations such as areas of natural beauty (AONB) and Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI) are included.


Don’t miss out!

Class MA PD rights are set to ignite the property sector, revitalising the high street and meeting the demands of the housing crisis.  You can act now and benefit from first-mover advantage ahead of the competition. Nimbus Maps will help you escalate your site finding, simplify your site assessment with confidence and connect you to the owners of the best opportunities. 


Learn more about how Nimbus Maps highlights these opportunities and discover the best ways to unlock these new opportunities, book a free personalised demo today!

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