A couple of thoughts further to our blog last week on the proposed new permitted development rights to change offices to residential.
Beware of the small print in the regulations themselves which require “the building to have been used for a use falling within Class B1(a) (offices) immediately before 30th May 2013 or, if the building was not in use immediately before that date, when it was last in use.” This does not appear to cover the scenario where an office has been built but never put into use, perhaps because the developer could not let it. In those circumstances, planning permission would be required for a change of use from office to residential. In light of the reasons given by the Government for the introduction of the new PD rights, it seems perverse to exclude this type of scenario. However, we understand that DCLG did mean to do so, intending the relaxation to benefit 1960s style empty office buildings, rather than more modern buildings which have never been used.
Also, be sure to check the conditions on your office use permission. Sometimes local authorities impose conditions restricting the use of the land, for example, only to office use. Whilst a general condition which restricts the use of the land does not remove PD rights for the use of that land unless the condition specifically removes those rights as well, you do sometimes find conditions which do expressly remove PD rights. Although there is a presumption contained in Government advice against the imposition of such type of conditions without good reason, local authorities do still impose conditions which dis-apply the provisions of the General Permitted Development Order (including any future changes to it). If this type of condition is attached to your office permission, you will not benefit from the proposed changes to the PD rights without first applying for removal of such condition, which defeats the purpose of relaxation of the PD rights in the first place. Also, check whether there is any relevant section 106 agreement which restricts the use of the building as this will continue to apply despite the changes to the PD rights regime.
N.B. The permitted development rights described above are applicable in England only.
For more information on the above regime and its implications, please get in touch.