20 February 2024

Announcement of New Legislation to Facilitate Housing Development (March 2024)

Development, Industry News, Planning, Residential

Today, the Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, unveiled a significant legislative change aimed at enhancing housing development. Effective from March 5, 2024, new flexibilities within the permitted development right regime have been introduced specifically to encourage the conversion of commercial properties into residential homes.

House keys with a house key chain

Today’s legislation change removes the conditions of Class MA, which facilitated the conversion of office spaces into residential units. The introduction of Class MA was prompted by updates to the Use Classes Order in the preceding year and included two conditions the following two conditions that have now been removed as a permitted development requirement, as follows:


  • Vacant Floorspace Requirement: Under Class MA, prior to applying for Prior Approval, it was previously mandatory for the floorspace within the Class E building to remain vacant for a period of three months.

  • Space Limitation: The permissible area for conversion under permitted development rights was previously restricted to 1,500 square meters.


This strategic move is part of a broader set of measures announced by the Government, emphasising a brownfield-first approach to housing delivery. Office investors and residential developers are likely to embrace these new flexibilities, as they refocus attention on the potential of underutilised commercial spaces to contribute to sustainable housing solutions.


Unlocking Opportunities: New Legislation for Permitted Development Rights

Despite previous critiques of office-to-residential conversions, the overall delivery quality has been commendable. Notably, 73,575 new homes emerged from office transformations between 2015 and the summer of 2022. These conversions have significantly contributed to a more residential supply.


Under the revised PDR framework, several critical requirements persist:

  • Nationally Described Space Standards: New dwellings must adhere to these established standards.

  • Noise Impact Assessment: Consideration of noise effects from commercial premises on future occupants remains mandatory.

  • Natural Light Provision: Adequate natural light in all habitable rooms is a non-negotiable criterion.


These provisions, coupled with the Prior Approval application process, ensure that regulatory matters are diligently addressed. Additionally, certain buildings and locations such as Listed Buildings remain exempt from the extended PDR, preserving the integrity of historical and culturally significant structures.


Enhancing Office Conversion Delivery to Residential

The conversion of office buildings into residential spaces shall be revitalised by the recent legislative changes. Many office buildings are in strategic positions in town centres, where they enjoy the advantages of substantial infrastructure investments and a wide range of services and employment opportunities. Therefore, repurposing obsolete office spaces is a persuasive land use planning argument. The relaxation to the legislation aims to enable sustainable residential delivery through these changes to the permitted development legislation.


SHW advises regular reviews of office assets to evaluate their suitability for potential residential conversion.