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A guide to permitted development rights in 2024


Permitted development rights (PDR) grant property owners the freedom to undertake certain types of development without the need for full planning permission. These rights are governed by legislation and outline specific criteria and limitations for eligible projects. Historically, PDRs have played a crucial role in streamlining the development process – encouraging growth in various sectors of the property market.

Why permitted development rights are important

A great benefit of permitted development rights is that it offers property investors or developers the flexibility to make improvements or changes to properties without going through the time-consuming and often complicated process of obtaining full planning permission. These rights are granted by law and enable specific types of development to proceed without the need for a full planning application.

The aim? To streamline the process for conversions or changes to existing buildings, allowing property investors or developers to maximise yields on their investments without unnecessary bureaucracy.

In 2020, the Government introduced new permitted development rights—such as Class MA, which broadened permitted development rights to encompass the new use Class E, enabling the conversion of shops, offices, restaurants, and cafes into residential buildings.

Other new PDR categories introduced in 2020 were ZA, A, AA, AB, AC, and AD to add to the existing Class G, which was extended to incorporate buildings in the new Class E. This means many buildings can now be converted to residential use, including building on top of them with extra stories (airspace) or demolishing and rebuilding—and this all via a simplified planning application with a presumption in favour of consent.

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Class MA changes since 2021

Class MA was effective from July 31, 2021, and initially imposed a maximum of 1,500 square metres for building conversions. This marked a shift from previous regulations that allowed applications for buildings with no size limits – but this restriction has now been removed. Additionally, there was a restriction that commercial properties should be vacant for at least three months – but this test has also now been removed.

However, developers must still comply with the following.

  • The building must have been in Class E use for at least two years.
  • Local planning authorities must assess safety measures and community impact.

The relevance of permitted development rights in the context of planning permissions cannot be overstated. With PDR, property investors or developers can avoid the lengthy process of full planning applications, saving precious time and resources. This streamlined approach encourages development and investment in properties, driving essential growth in the real-estate market. For further insight, watch our on-demand webinar, Unlocking New Horizons: Exploring permitted development rights and maximising opportunities.

Unlocking opportunities of PDR and use class changes

In recent years, the UK government has unveiled significant planning reforms surrounding permitted development, marking a pivotal moment for property investors and developers alike. These reforms introduced changes surrounding building use classes and the conversion of commercial premises, presenting a golden opportunity for private investors to convert vacant commercial buildings into thriving, liveable spaces.

To leverage this opportunity, it's crucial to grasp the nuances of PDR classes and their implications. While the government primarily lists PDR classes relevant to homeowners, focusing on Class A, B, and C, investors must pay close attention to the “use class” of a building. The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 outlines key classes, including:

  • Class B: general industrial and storage or distribution;
  • Class C: hotels, residential institutions, dwelling houses, and houses in multiple occupation;
  • Class E: a comprehensive class governing various commercial businesses;
  • Class F: learning and non-residential institutions, as well as local community establishments.

Subsequent changes have further expanded PDR rights, allowing the conversion of Class E buildings to C3 residential buildings under Class MA, along with larger extensions to existing buildings.

How to seize viable PDR opportunities

 The government's focus on revitalising high streets through housing presents a lucrative opportunity for investors. Plus, investing in city-centre properties offers the potential for high rental income without the need for extensive planning permissions. In addition to this, it is worth noting that failed commercial properties now classified as Class E buildings provide affordable entry points for investors. This signals a significant market shift toward more accessible inner-city investments.

For landlords struggling with underperforming commercial properties, the flexibility of PDR allows for seamless conversion to residential use, ensuring continued viability in evolving market conditions. By aligning investment strategies with the government's vision for high streets, investors can capitalise on emerging opportunities and contribute to the revitalisation of urban landscapes.

As the property market evolves, staying informed and adaptable is key to maximising returns. With strategic investments and a keen understanding of regulatory changes, investors can navigate the complexities of permitted development rights and unlock the full potential of their properties – they just need to make sure they keep their finger firmly on the pulse of the market. With Nimbus access, you’ll be able to assess your properties fast and find viable commercial opportunities at scale, without having to move from your desk.

Navigating Article 4: balancing development rights and local authority control

Article 4 grants local planning authorities the power to revoke permitted development rights within their jurisdiction, significantly impacting property investors and restricting potential opportunities. This means that investors must navigate a more rigorous planning application process, subject to approval by the local authority.

These rules are commonly applied in town centre properties, with a focus on safeguarding essential retail spaces. However, proposed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework suggest a tightening of criteria for granting Article 4 directions. This has the potential to open up new avenues for investors, particularly in town centre properties not deemed critical enough to warrant Article 4 restrictions.

In designated areas such as conservation areas or national parks, local authorities may enforce stricter guidelines to preserve the area's aesthetic and cultural integrity. Investors should engage with local planning teams to ensure compliance with these regulations before initiating development – or use the Nimbus platform to identify any cultural or environmental restrictions on a property of interest.

Row of Houses in London


Identifying PDR investment opportunities

 The evolving PDR landscape presents new prospects, particularly in rejuvenating high streets. Investors can explore mixed-use property developments, blending residential units with amenities to align with the government's vision for vibrant town centres.

Investors must exercise caution, however, and thorough research when considering conversion projects is essential. While permitted development rights offer expedited pathways, understanding local dynamics and market demand is essential to avoid potential pitfalls. With over 1,00 trusted data sources providing real-time insights and updates, Nimbus can go a long way in saving you time and resources when looking for your next viable opportunity.

Commercial projects and changes in land use under PDR

As discussed, these rights facilitate changes in land use and alterations to existing buildings, providing flexibility for commercial development projects and the following are some common examples.

  • Change of use. Changes in land use from one commercial activity to another without the need for planning permission. For example, a retail space may be converted into a restaurant or office space without extensive approval processes.
  • Conversion of buildings. Similar to residential properties, PDR often covers the conversion of existing commercial buildings into alternative uses. This could include converting an office building into residential apartments or repurposing industrial units for creative workspaces.
  • Temporary structures. PDR may permit the erection of temporary structures for commercial purposes, such as pop-up shops or event spaces. These temporary structures can provide businesses with flexibility in testing new concepts or accommodating seasonal demands.
  • Exterior alterations. Certain exterior alterations, such as the installation of signage or the erection of fences or walls, may be covered under PDR for commercial properties. These alterations can help businesses enhance their branding and improve the functionality of their premises.
  • Change in operating hours. In some cases, PDR may allow for changes in operating hours for commercial premises without the need for planning permission. This flexibility can particularly benefit businesses adapting to changing market conditions or customer preferences.

Common misconceptions and limitations of PDR

Despite the flexibility offered by permitted development rights (PDR), there are common restrictions that property owners should be aware of.

Listed buildings. PDR usually do not apply to listed buildings, which are subject to additional regulations and protections due to their historical or architectural significance. Alterations to listed buildings typically require Listed Building Consent, regardless of whether they fall under PDR.

Conservation areas. Properties located in conservation areas may have stricter limitations on permitted development. Certain rights may be restricted or entirely removed in these places to preserve character and appearance.

National parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty: Similarly, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) may have additional restrictions on permitted development to protect their natural landscapes and biodiversity.

Article 4 directions. Local planning authorities (LPAs) can issue Article 4 Directions to restrict permitted development rights in specific areas. These directions are typically used in conservation areas or areas where the local authority wants to preserve the existing character and appearance of the area.

Temporary rights. Permitted development rights can change over time as government policies evolve. Property owners should regularly check for updates and consult with local planning authorities before undertaking any development projects.


What are your key PDR takeaways?

 This blog post aims to serve as a comprehensive resource for navigating the intricate landscape of permitted development rights (PDR) in 2024. As the year unfolds, understanding and leveraging PDR will be instrumental for property owners, developers, and stakeholders seeking efficient and compliant avenues for their projects.

Every property and project is unique, so it's important to seek professional advice tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. At Nimbus, we’re built to help you connect with the people, properties, and data you need to succeed – enabling you to turn your property vision into reality.

So don't let bureaucratic hurdles hold you back! Take advantage of these developments and transform your property potential with confidence. For help getting further insight and connections, contact our team of experts today at 01926 355 424 or email sales@nimbusproperty.co.uk.

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