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Developers, property owners and funders will welcome changes to planning laws that permit developments in England altering use of property from commercial business and service (Class E) to residential (Class C3), under a new Class MA (Mercantile to Abode), provided certain conditions are met.

Developments pursuant to the new permitted development laws require prior approval from the local planning authority, and the first applications for approval can be made from 1 August 2021. The change must be implemented within three years of the approval.

The conditions include that:

  • The cumulative floor space must not be more than 1,500 square metres (so the new rules do not permit larger developments).
  • The building must have been empty for three or more continuous months immediately before the application for approval.
  • The building must have been in Class E (or, before 1 September 2020, any predecessor class) for two or more years before the application.
  • The building must not be listed, in a site of special scientific interest, a National Park or in other similar specified areas (an application can still be made if a building is in a conservation area, when special rules will apply).

As under previous permitted development rules, the application must deal with issues such as transport, noise, fire safety, contamination, flooding, etc. The planning authority will take into account the impact of industrial, storage, distribution and waste management in the area on future occupiers of the homes to be created.

There are also significant changes to permitted development of public service buildings.

Landlords, property owners and funders should consider whether the new permitted developments will enable them to carry on new and profitable activities from premises, or offer empty properties for sale or let for new uses, without having to apply for planning permission.


To discuss Commercial Property issues, please either use the contact form on this page, email us at or call us on 01484 821 500 to speak to a member of our team.