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Changes to the current planning system explained...

Changes to the current planning system explained...

Alister Smith, the head of Stags Planning and Architectural Design team, comments on recent changes that have been made to the planning system.

Alister reports that the government continues to make small amendments to the planning system while it considers more major changes and, whilst nothing as exciting as Class Q has been introduced, which allows for the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential use, there have been some changes during 2020 that are of interest including…

Upward Extension

Subject to a prior approval application, it is possible to obtain planning permission via Permitted Development Rights to extend upwards on detached post1948 dwellings by either one storey (for single storey properties) or two storeys (for houses with more than two storeys). Invariably, there are a number of exemptions and requirements, one main issue being that these rights do not apply in any Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), National Parks or Conservation Areas.

Use Classes

A new “Commercial, Business and Service” Use called “Class E” has been created.

This groups together a wide variety of uses as outlined below, all of which are now considered to be in the same use class:

  • Retail
  • Restaurants
  • Financial, professional or other commercial services
  • Publicly accessible indoor sport, recreation or fitness
  • Publicly available medical or health services
  • Day nurseries and day centres
  • Offices, including research and development
  • Industrial uses which do not harm amenity

Alister explains that planning permission is no longer required for changes of use within the same use class. This means that many types of business will be able to change the uses of properties without seeking planning permission.

New Residential Development of Redundant Offices and Light Industrial Buildings – Class ZA

This is a new Permitted Development Right (PDR) allowing the demolition and rebuilding of free- standing ‘vacant and redundant’ offices and light industrial buildings to a single dwelling or block of flats, without planning permission. This is subject to a prior approval process and, as ever, there are quite a few exemptions including Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), National Parks or Conservation Areas. An additional requirement is that in order to benefit from this new Class ZA PDR, the building must have been vacant for at least six months immediately before the prior approval submission.  

Minimum Floor Area Requirements – Class Q and other Permitted Development Rights

These are scheduled to come into effect on 6 April 2021 and allow for the 2015/2016 space standards to be applied to all forms of property created under PDRs, including Class Q. The space standard begins at 37m² of floorspace for a new one- bedroom single occupier unit with a shower room or 39m² for a single occupier unit with a bathroom.

Alister comments that in instances where some smaller barns struggle to meet this requirement, or where the requirement might be to create a two-bedroom unit, it would be advisable to submit planning applications before these new minimum floor area requirements come into effect on 6 April 2021.

Extension to 28 Day Permitted Development Rights

As part of Covid-19 response measures, the temporary ability to use land for any purpose for an additional 28 days (total of 56 days) has been extended for a further year and now expire on 31 December 2021.  This will be of particular interest to landowners who run seasonal activities such as campsites from their land.

Stags Planning and Architectural Design Team operates from Stags Exeter Office in Southernhay West and welcomes enquiries, big or small. For an informal, no-obligation chat please contact our department on 01392 439046 or email us at