Know your rights - Commercial development

1st April, 2014

Secondary legislation has been introduced which grants significant new Permitted Development rights for land and buildings in a variety of uses. Some of these rights are time limited, including the much publicised ‘Office to Residential’ rights. Below is a brief summary of the most important changes for commercial land and buildings.

Change of use of buildings and land in class B1 (a) office use to class C3 residential

Temporary rights allow for a permanent change of eligible properties under a prior notification procedure, providing that: 

The development is completed by 30th May 2016; 

The building was used as an office immediately before 30th May 2013 (or, if vacant, was last used as an office); 

The site does not form part of a safety hazard area or military explosives storage area and is not a Listed Building or Scheduled Ancient Monument, and 

The development would not have significant highway, contamination or flooding impacts.

Temporary Change of Use

The rights temporarily allow the permitted change of land and buildings currently used as shops (Class A1), professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), drinking establishments (A4), hot food takeaways (B1), non-residential institutions (D1) and assembly and leisure (D2) to a flexible use falling within either Class A1, A2, A3 or B1.

This will be available for a single continuous period of up to two years and will be limited to 150 sq m of floor space.

Extensions to Commercial Premises

Temporary increases in extension thresholds for offices (up to 100 sq m), shops / catering (up to 100 sq m), professional services (up to 100 sq m), and industrial and warehouse development (up to 200 sq m). These are valid until 30th May 2016 and subject to a prior notification procedure.

Other Provisions 

Permanently increased size thresholds for changes of use for B1 or B2 to B8 (Storage and Distribution) and B2 or B8 to B1 from 235 sq.m to 500 sq.m.


The new legislation is likely to be of particular interest to property owners and agents as it offers attractive new opportunities for disused or underutilised buildings that might not be achievable under current local planning policy. In some instances temporary permitted changes of use may open the door to a permanent change of use through the submission of a full planning application. It should be noted that many of these changes are time limited and therefore we advise owners / occupiers to act quickly if they intend to take advantage of these temporary relaxations.