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The Government has confirmed its amendments to the General Permitted Development Order (“GPDO”) to open up new opportunities for the use of Class MA ‘PD rights’ to convert from commercial use (Class E) to residential (Class C3). The amendments act to:

  • Omit the 1,500 sqm maximum floorspace limit; and
  • Omit the three-month vacancy requirement.

So, where a site meets the requirements and conditions of Class MA, it can now be utilised on in-use buildings with no floor space limit. The Government has introduced these changes in a bid to boost the delivery of housing, and the changes hark back to former Class J/O PD rights (2013-2021) that were also subject to no floorspace limit or vacancy requirement. 

These amendments come into effect on 5 March 2024 and relate to England only. There are no other changes to the Class MA PD rights. All requirements, conditions and current Article 4 Directions continue to apply. 


The Secretary of State has also modified existing Article 4 Directions (“A4D”) in Brent, Hillingdon and Three Rivers. In each instance, the reason for the modification was that the Directions were not sufficiently targeted in approach in the assessment of the wholly unacceptable adverse impacts of the permitted development right in each location. The Secretary of State added that “such an approach is necessary to ensure that Article Directions apply only to the smallest geographical area possible”. 

In the light of the expansion of the Class MA PD rights to apply with no floorspace limit, it remains to be seen how local authorities may counteract that. This could be through confirming new Article 4 Directions, although in most cases, these are “non-immediate” and will take some time to come into effect (usually 12 months), and the Secretary of State is clear that such A4Ds must be targeted and justified. A prior approval application would need to be submitted at least 56 days prior to the introduction of the A4D.


In other news, the Government has commenced consultation on ‘changes to various permitted developments ’ to support a more “efficient, effective and responsive” planning system

In 2021, a series of PD rights were introduced for upward extensions of buildings (known as Class AA of Part 1, Class A, AA, AB, AC and AD of Part 20). The Government is now proposing that the current limitation that the extended building must have been constructed after 1 July 1948 could be amended to an alternative date (e.g. 1930 or no date). It is also seeking views on whether the rights could be streamlined or simplified, as the feedback has been that the prior approvals are too burdensome in practice and, therefore, ineffective.

Similar consultation is being undertaken on the existing PD rights for demolition and rebuild (Class ZA of Part 20) and whether these can be streamlined. It also includes details to expand the dates to potentially allow for newer buildings (post-1989) and older buildings (pre-1948) to be included, as well as increase the allowable increase in footprint.

Further changes are being consulted on PD rights that allow for off-street electric vehicle charging infrastructure and air source heat pumps on domestic premises in a bid to meet the Government’s target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. Finally, views are sought on proposed changes that would allow householders to enlarge their homes, extend their roofs, and construct buildings incidental to the enjoyment of the main house. 

These potential changes to other PD rights are part of the Government’s bid to ensure that householders can maximise the use of space within their homes, support the gentle densification of towns and cities and support. 


The accompanying Explanatory Memorandum to the amendment Order highlights the Government’s view on the importance of permitted development rights to housing delivery. It states that in the eight years to March 2023, permitted development rights for the change of use have delivered 102,830 new homes. Furthermore, in the last year, 9,492 homes were delivered, representing 4% of the overall housing supply.

Whilst permitted development rights that allow the change of use to residential have come a long way to ensure a minimum quality of living accommodation since they were first introduced in 2013, the common shortcomings of the rights exist in so far that they are unable to provide place-making benefits through communal amenity and/or public realm, nor deliver affordable homes. 

The Memorandum does not assess the impact of the changes on these, which will clearly be more pronounced on larger commercial buildings that were previously excluded. 

Nevertheless, in the run-up to a General Election, one in which housing is likely to be a key battleground, it is clear that this is as much a numbers game, and the Government undoubtedly sees these amendments under Class MA as a way to bolster housing delivery quickly. 

Please find our PDF below, which offers a complete overview of the amendments.

“These rights make an important contribution to housing delivery. In the eight years to March 2023, permitted development rights for the change of use have delivered 102,830 new homes to rent or to buy. These changes will bring additional premises into scope of the right and deliver more homes to buy or to let than would otherwise have been the case.” DLUHC Explanatory Memorandum to the GPDO Amendment 2024


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