Amendments to the General Permitted Development Order: Class E to Residential (Class MA)

Following the changes to the Use Classes Order last year and the creation of Class E, it has become necessary for the Government to regularise the associated permitted development rights to residential.

Office to residential (Class O) and retail to residential (Class M) will be phased out at the end of July this year and replaced by Class E to residential (Class MA) as set out within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development etc) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021 (SI 2021 No. 428).

What does it apply to?

The number of uses that have been subsumed within Class E include retail (A1, A2, A3), offices and light industrial (B1), health (parts of D1) and leisure (D2). The ability to change any of these uses to residential is now granted under Class MA if buildings meet the following criteria:

  • Limited to buildings of a cumulative floorspace of up to 1,500 sqm (previously it was unlimited for offices and up to 150 sqm for retail);
  • The building has to have been vacant for three consecutive months prior to submission;
  • Buildings must have been in Class E use for two years prior to submission (including time in former uses now within that class); and
  • The building is not listed, in an SSSI, AONB, National Park, World Heritage Site etc, however, the rights do apply to buildings in conservation areas.


The key reflections to this amendment include:

  • The current Class B1 to C3 prior approval (“Class O”) to be phased out with applications required on or before 31 July 2021, including applications to extend existing permissions that may expire and would not be permitted under the new Rights.
  • Class E to C3 prior approval (“Class MA”) available from 1 August 2021.
  • Class MA residential development does not attract any affordable housing requirements.
  • Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) still applies to Class MA development.
  • Existing Article 4 Directions (that withdraw specific permitted development rights) have been extended to August 2022 and will likely be renewed in that time by many Councils.

Prior Approval

The prior approval process requires additional information to demonstrate amenity, environmental and design standards can be met, and these have been carried forward from the previous rights. For the first time, the rights apply in conservation areas and, to enable this, heritage justification is required for any changes at ground level.

In terms of securing prior approval under permitted development rights the following is required:

  • The considerations of a prior approval application include impacts on transport, contamination, flooding, noise, natural light, and other case-by-case matters depending on the existing use or location of development.
  • Consideration of the impact on the character or sustainability of the conservation area.
  • Planning permission is still required for physical alterations or development works associated with conversion of the building.
  • The application fee is £100 per dwellinghouse (up to a maximum of £5,000).

Issues to Consider

  • Owners with office buildings that may not meet the requirements of the new Class MA, may wish to consider applying for a change of use (not approved) under permitted development rights (Class O) by 31 July 2021, before the amendments come into force.
  • Owners with extant permissions may wish to consider reapplying for previously consented office to residential developments to “restart” the three-year time limit for conversion completion.

For more information, please contact Raoul or Silas.