Last week housing minister, The RT Hon Robert Jenrick cemented the ‘Build, Build, Build!’ mantra by confirming into law, changes to the planning uses. Class MA has now been confirmed for the 1st August 2021. You may well be scratching your head and questioning what this technical bit of legislation means.
In basic terms, it is an attempt to loosen the constraints of redeveloping the nations town centres. The last year has been… well… let us not go there, and politicians are trying to encourage entrepreneurship. Especially in property which historically has seemed to be a ‘go-to’ cash cow.
It is fair to say British high streets have not been the most inspirational landscapes with generic retail and underperforming independents going out of business quite quickly. The closing down sale sign in a shop window would cause a shock years ago, but unfortunately has become now desensitised in the British psyche. Class MA is an effort to shake up the high street and ‘take back control’ (if you will pardon the pun) of the housing crisis.
In England Class MA will mean any properties registered under use Class E can be applied for a change of use to residential. Class E includes things like retail units, gyms, nurseries, light industrial units, offices, etc. This was previously allowed under Class M – Class MA’s predecessor but the limit was a maximum of 150sq metres. That will change to 1500sq metres as of the 1st August 2021 so if you still have any vacant Woolworths kicking around on your high street now is the time to make some enquiries with the building owner.
Got to be a catch?
Like anything our politicians say, there is a catch to this exciting bit of legislation. The Class E property must be vacant for a minimum of 3 months before the application on prior approval is submitted. Prior approval application takes 56 days to validate the planning permission that you have already submitted within the general permitted development order.
Now this all sounds like a great opportunity to make some big dough but hold your horses. If you submit a Class MA application before 1st August 2021 – it will be rejected. Find, prioritise, and plan all your options and then after this date submit your application to the local planning department.