Permitted Development Rights extension to light industrial

From 1 October 2017 a new three year Permitted Development Right ("PDR") came into force. The PDR will allow changes of use from "Shed to Bed" (as coined by the legal press), or more accurately, from Class B1(c) (light industrial) to Class C (residential) provided that prior approval has been granted before 1 October 2020. The development must then be completed within 3 years of the prior approval date. In addition, a further amendment under Class M Part 3 of Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 2016 allows the change of use from launderettes to residential, subject to prior approval.

The aim of the PDR is, of course, to boost the supply of homes crucially needed throughout the UK. However, one would be right to question the real effect, if any, of the new PDR and whether the features and location of light industrial land genuinely lend themselves to residential use. Stringent limitations imposed on the PDR will undoubtedly affect its uptake but if you can overcome the hurdles, the PDR may be of benefit to you. The most significant barriers to the PDR are as follows:

  • The building must have been used solely for a light industrial use on the 19 March 2014
  • Prior approval must be sought from local authorities addressing transport and highways impacts, contamination and flooding risks, and where the site is within an area that is "important for providing industrial services" the local authority must consider whether the change to residential use would have a detrimental impact on the "sustainability" of those services (a condition which was not imposed on office to residential conversions)
  • The PDR will be restricted to sites with an existing gross floorspace of 500 square meters (which will provide a significant deterrent to larger developers intending to use the PDR)
  • Listed buildings or those within the curtilage of a listed building will not benefit from the PDR, nor will those sites that contain a scheduled monument
  • Due to the industrial nature of Class B1(c) which are often single-story buildings with very few windows, additional works and planning consents (which were not necessary under office to residential conversions) will often be required in order to make the sites inhabitable as residential housing. Therefore, entering the planning process appears to be an inevitable result
  • Loss of employment space is a key concern for local authorities (exacerbated by the office to residential conversions), who are likely to adopt blanket Article 4 directions further limiting the use of the PDR.

An attempt to simplify the planning regime may be welcomed by small and medium sized developers who could gain from standalone light industrial buildings scattered throughout residential areas. Additionally, the PDR not only enables conversion that would have previously required full planning permission but also prevents affordable housing requirements from being imposed. Despite this, it will be interesting to see if the PDR can make any significant dent in the housing crisis when so many obstacles exist.