• sarahairdmash

So you want to build your dream home?

How often have you walked past a development and thought you’d have been interested in the site if you’d known it was for sale? It’s a competitive world out there and in the past developers have had the inside track which means homeowners barely get a look in. This could all change with ‘Permitted Development Rights’ (PDR)? In a nutshell, PDR means you can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called "permitted development rights".

They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Of course this is interesting if you’re a homeowner looking to make small improvements like a single storey extension, but the opportunity is a lot more significant if you fancy trying your hand as a property developer and have the appetite to consider office-to-residential conversions.

Figures show that small and medium developers have been quietly taking advantage of PDR, since 2014 there have been 12,000 office-to-residential conversions and there remains 13,000 office properties sitting vacant, along with over 7,000 light industrial units. That’s 20,000 opportunities across the UK to be tapped into.

So how do you start? The term ‘commercial property' applies to any building designed to turn a profit – a gym, warehouse, supermarket, cinema or office block, for example. Look around for any property that fits this criteria and is for sale. Whether you can use PDRs to escape full planning permission will first hinge on which 'use of class' the commercial property falls into:

Class A

Shops and other retail premises

Class B

Offices, factories, workshops and warehouses

Class C

Residential institutions, hotels and hostels

Class D

Non-residential institutions, assembly and leisure

These categories are further divided into subclasses.

Class A1 for example includes shops such as hairdressers and dry cleaners, whereas class A2 refers to financial services, such as banks and estate agents.

Class B1 refers to offices suitable for residential areas, such as those involved in research and development, while class B2 premises might carry out light industrial processes.

Class C3 refers to residential property.

Register your interest with the managing agent and book an appointment to look round. It can be difficult to envisage the potential of a property but what you’re really looking for of course is plenty of space inside and out. If you like what you see the next step is to check out where you stand on PDR before finding a local architect who can help you visualise the space.

It’s worth looking into the most recent PDR legislation that was introduced in May 2017.

For applications received since October 2017, it's possible to convert B1c (light industrial) to C3 (residential dwelling) without full planning permission.

B1c premises are the most popular commercial-to-residential conversions because they are most commonly found in residential areas.

Other commercial-to-residential conversions (eg A1 and A2) may also be permitted without full planning permission, as long as the size of the premises does not exceed 150 square metres.

Even if planning permission is not required, you’ll need to seek ‘prior approval’ from your relevant local authority. Costs shouldn’t be more than £200.

There might be other restrictions too. The B1c to C3 conversion set out above, for example, requires that prior approval is granted before October 2020 and development is completed within three years of the date it was received.

You need to bear in mind it's only the change of use that's permitted, not the conversion itself. In other words, if you need to knock down walls or add an extension, you still require planning permission.

For more information, visit the Planning Portal website.

The next step is to apply direct to the local planning authority (LPA) department of your local council. Application fees vary from between £96 to around £462 for full planning permission change of use. Each LPA operates slightly differently so be sure to engage with them early on in the process. You’ll want your architects plans for this as the planners will want to see exactly what you’re proposing.

If you’re thinking about building your own home and would like to talk to an expert before taking the next step you could book an appointment with one of our independent consultants who can talk you through the whole process.

Book now.


Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.

PDRs vary in some areas of the country, known generally as 'designated areas'. For example, if you live in:

  • a Conservation Area

  • a National Park

  • an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

  • a World Heritage Site or

  • the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads.

You will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas. There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.

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