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Planning to extend or change use of commercial property?

The Town and Country Planning order which came into force on 30 May 2013 increases the development thresholds that are permitted for both residential building extensions but also non-domestic extensions and new buildings.

This order was developed by the Government to ease the tedious planning restrictions and bureaucracy that often restricted both individuals and businesses from making improvements to their properties.

Key features of the order include:

•  Allowing larger extensions to homes, offices and shops, without having to submit a planning application,

•  An ability to change the use of buildings from B1 offices to C3 residential in order to provide homes in existing buildings,

•  Allowing flexible use of agricultural buildings and

•  Enabling high street premises to be used for new types of business.

In rural areas, the lifting of planning restrictions combined with improved communications namely the rollout of high speed broadband, should encourage rural businesses to grow or encourage companies to choose to locate in rural commercial property.

The order should encourage changes in how businesses can use their property and provide greater opportunity for businesses to expand.

The threshold for business change of use, from business or general industry to storage and distribution, has increased from 235m2 to 500m2.

Another significant change is the ability to convert offices into residential property. Class J grants planning permission for a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage, from class B1(a) (offices) to a use falling within class C3 (dwelling houses). There are of course certain restrictions whereby development is not permitted and permission is subject to conditions, including the requirement to obtain prior approval from the LPA in relation to transport, highways, contamination and flooding.

These changes apply from 30 May 2013 to 30 May 2016, after which the Government will consider extending the scheme. The changes do not apply in protected areas. 

Paul Burbidge can be contacted at