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What is Class ZA?


What is the Class ZA Permitted Development PD right?

In 2019, the government updated permitted development rights (PD rights) in England and Wales, but why? And how does everyone benefit?

The Class ZA permitted development right allows for the change of use of a commercial building or buildings (Class E, which includes offices, shops, and restaurants) to create up to three residential units. It also allows for the construction of additional storeys on top of existing buildings, subject to a maximum height of 30 metres.

There are a number of limitations and conditions associated with the Class ZA permitted development right, including requirements around the size of the building, the number of units that can be created, and the need to obtain prior approval from the local planning authority. Additionally, the right may not apply in certain areas, such as conservation areas or areas subject to an Article 4 Direction.

It's worth noting that other parts of the UK may have different regulations and permitted development rights.

The Impact of Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in our societal behaviour, including how we work, live, and socialise. The shift towards remote work has resulted in a noticeable decline in the demand for commercial properties such as office blocks and light industrial units. In fact, many businesses are considering a permanent move to remote work, as evidenced by reports that ASDA head office staff will now be offered the option to work from home indefinitely through a "work where it works" approach, as reported by The Times this month.

As a result, much discussion in the media has centred around the potential impact on our towns and cities. While the government has implemented measures to support the residential property market, there has been less public discussion of how to repurpose the empty commercial buildings left behind by the remote work trend.


Permitted Development Rights 

Permitted development rights (PD rights) are widely recognised by homeowners as a means of improving their properties without the bureaucratic hassles of full planning permission applications. In contrast, residential developers have generally shied away from utilising PD rights in the commercial sector. Despite the residential property market experiencing a boom during the pandemic, developers are encountering new challenges due to a lack of viable sites and higher prices. One potential solution for property entrepreneurs is Class MA, a new permitted development right introduced in August 2021, which permits the conversion of commercial properties into residential dwellings.

It's worth noting that Class MA is only applicable to buildings that can feasibly be converted into residential properties. Sometimes, the layout or external building envelope may pose obstacles to creating high-quality homes, limiting the usefulness of this permitted development right for developers.


Class ZA

Class ZA is a permitted development right that seeks to take advantage of disused commercial buildings and disused blocks of flats by demolishing and rebuilding new residential dwellings. The commercial properties must fall under a block of flats or B1 use class to qualify which includes offices, light industrial and research buildings.

Once demolished, the property can be converted into a detached house or a new block of flats. This is a great option in densely populated areas.



As with most permitted development rights there are strict rules to adhere to Class ZA. These include size, location and age. It is important to refer to the legislation before submitting prior approval on your next project.

  • The existing building must be no bigger than 1,000m2.
  • The maximum height of the existing building is 18m, including any satellites or transmitters mounted to the top.
  • The original building must have been constructed before 31st March 1989.
  • You must demolish the whole building and not multiple buildings.
  • The new property must be no higher than 18m tall.
  • The existing property must not be listed.
  • The area must not be in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) or a special site of scientific interest (SSSI)


Finding Class ZA opportunities 

The vacant building overlay in Nimbus is the perfect tool to locate vacant commercial buildings that would suit demolition and rebuilding under the new Class ZA. The overlay precisely pinpoints the buildings on a map showing their footprint and size. Each building is colour coded to provide you with information on how long the properties have been vacant. Each time a search is made you can even refine the usage of the building and square footage.

Even if you are a local property expert and aware of vacant buildings in your vicinity you might not know who owns the buildings. Nimbus can even connect you to the owner by giving you the records with the click of a mouse.

To start your Class ZA venture now, try Nimbus for yourself with a free trial today

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