GPDO Amendment 2021: Commercial to Residential – Class MA – Parker Planning Services

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A New Class MA has been introduced.  The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development etc.) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021 has come into force from today (21st April 2021). Here’s our summary of these changes –  as concluded by our Cambridgeshire Planning Consultancy Manager.

These new rules are thought to support the aim of housing delivery while giving high streets a new lease of life ‘removing eyesores, transforming unused buildings and making the most of brownfield land’. However, the security of the High Street is being questioned. It is therefore important to note that the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has launched a new inquiry to examine the Government’s approach to permitted development rights. Thus, providing an opportunity to raise issues. A call for evidence has been requested for particular developments including commercial to residential uses. All evidence is to be submitted by the April 30th. For more information on this inquiry: New inquiry: Permitted development rights – Committees – UK Parliament

New freedoms to support high streets and fast track delivery of schools and hospitals across England introduced today – GOV.UK (

An Overview –

  • A new Class MA has been introduced which allows buildings and land within the recently created Class E (commercial, business and service) to be converted into dwellings. Before any development is carried out an application for prior approval needs to be made and a number of criteria must be met. Applications under Class MA can only be made after August 1st 2021 and this change does not apply to listed buildings or to locations within an AONB or National Park.
  • Class O applications which allow for the conversion of offices into dwellings will no longer be possible after 31st July, therefore must be submitted before this date at the latest. The procedure for this type of conversion will be replaced by the new Class MA route which comes into effect from August 1st

A Summary of the main changes and requirements of the new MA Class: 

The new MA class permits the change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use falling within Class E (commercial, business and service) of Schedule 2 to the Use Classes Order to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses).

There are of course restrictions to such a change of use, so development would not be permitted if:

  • the building has been vacant for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately prior to the date of the application for prior approval;
  • the use of the building fell within one or more of the classes specified in sub-paragraph (2) for a continuous period of at least 2 years prior to the date of the application for prior approval;
  • the cumulative floor space of the existing building changing use under Class MA exceeds 1,500 square metres
  • land covered by, or within the curtilage of, the building is or forms part of a site of special scientific interest; forms part of a listed building or land within its curtilage; is or forms part of a scheduled monument or land within its curtilage; is or forms part of a safety hazard area; or is or forms part of a military explosives storage area.
  • The building is within AONB, SSSI, the Broads, National Park, World Heritage Site
  • The site is occupied under an agricultural occupancy, unless consent has been obtained, or
  • Before 1 August 2022, if the proposed development falls within Class O had effect before the 1 August 2021, and the development would not have been permitted under Class O immediately before the 1 August 2021.

Class MA requires Prior Notification, and its determination will be subject to:

  • transport impacts of the development, particularly to ensure safe site access.
  • contamination risks in relation to the building.
  • flooding risks in relation to the building.
  • impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development.
  • where—
    • the building is located in a conservation area, and
    • the development involves a change of use of the whole or part of the ground floor, the impact of that change of use on the character or sustainability of the conservation area
  • provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses.
  • the impact on intended occupiers of the development of the introduction of residential use in an area the authority considers to be important for general or heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution, or a mix of such uses; and
  • where the development involves the loss of services provided by—
    • a registered nursery, or
    • a health centre maintained under section 2 or 3 of the National Health Service Act 2006(2),the impact on the local provision of the type of services lost.

Developments approved under Prior Approval will need to be completed within 3 years. It should also be noted that an application for prior approval for development under Class MA may not be made before 1 August 2021.


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