Reuse of Empty Buildings and Boosting Growth

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News article

Red tape cut for reuse of redundant agricultural buildings

May 2013

Re-use of empty buildings

Further to last year's consultation on ‘Making the planning system work more efficiently and effectively’, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles MP has now confirmed that the new measures coming into force will ensure the very best use is made of empty and underused buildings to support local growth, businesses and homeowners looking to make better use of existing and vacant buildings. 

The legislation which is an amendment to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995 will come into force on 30 May 2013

Click here to read our information sheet outlining the various changes.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “there is huge untapped potential in the many disused existing buildings we have and we’re determined that every one of them is put to good use… We’re also providing a great opportunity for outdated, redundant or underused offices to be brought back to life by converting them into homes, protecting the green belt and countryside at the same time. This will also increase footfall and provide knock-on benefits to the wider community”. 
The changes will cover the following areas:

Commercial to Residential change of use

New permitted development rights will allow change of use from offices B1(a) to homes (C3) to provide new homes in existing buildings. The rights gives a clear signal to owners, developers and local planning authorities that the Government want underused and outdated offices to be brought back to life, and provides an excellent opportunity to create much needed new homes. 
However, areas within 17 local authorities in England are exempt from new rights to convert offices to homes, comprising the City of London, the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington & Chelsea. The Borough councils of Vale of the White Horse, Stevenage, Ashford (Kent), the District councils of Sevenoaks, East Hampshire, and Manchester City Council.

Agriculture, Business, Retail/Professional, and Non-Residential/Leisure Uses

Existing redundant agricultural buildings of 500m² or less will be able to change to a range of new business uses to boost the rural economy whilst protecting the open countryside from development. For buildings between 150m² and 500m², prior approval will be required, to ensure that the change of use does not create unacceptable impacts (such as noise or transport problems).
Changes of use for new retail ventures, financial and professional services, restaurants, cafes and businesses will be able to open for up to two years in buildings currently designated as shops (A1), financial/professional (A2), restaurants (A3), pubs (A4), hot food takeaways (A5), business (B1), non-residential institutions (D1) and leisure and assembly (D2). 
Further, the thresholds for permitted development rights for change of use from B1 (business) or B2 (general industry) to B8 (storage and distribution) classes and from B2 (general industry) or B8 (storage and distribution) to B1 (business) will increase from 235m² to 500m².

Free Schools

Premises used as offices, hotels, residential and non-residential institutions, and leisure and assembly will be able to change use permanently to a state-funded school.

Residential Extensions (single storey)

The forthcoming regulations allow larger extensions to homes to proceed without needing to submit a planning application for a three year period. The current limits for the depth of single-storey domestic extensions will increase from 4m to 8m (for detached houses) and from 3m to 6m (for all other houses), in non-protected areas. These will however be subject to a prior approval stage, allowing local residents and councillors to continue to play an active part in the planning process.

These changes which come into force on 30 May provide a significant opportunity for farmers and Fisher German clients. The legislation will extend permitted development rights for redundant agricultural buildings up to 500m² to be converted to new business uses for a period of up to two years under a prior notification procedure.

This opportunity will allow for farmers and landowners to carry out diversification opportunities on unused buildings on their holdings, boosting income and supporting the rural economy.

Further changes for business and storage uses are also identified which provide additional opportunities for diversification.

For further information, contact Alan Hardwick on 01530 412821 email

For information on our planning services click here

For information on rural farm business consultancy services click here

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