Emma Jones

Emma Jones

Emma has over 20 years’ expertise supporting clients to find creative and commercial town planning solutions.

Class MA Permitted Development – Get Ready

As of 1st August 2021, new Class MA permitted development comes into operation. Here we explain what you need to know.

Back to Basics

First of all, let us give a quick overview of the basics when it comes to permitted development. The legislation, the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), takes some small scale development outside of the planning system to allow larger applications to be dealt with more expeditiously. There are different classes of permitted development each with it’s own conditions and restrictions. So understanding the rules can be pretty complicated and interpreting regulations is definitely not user friendly. 

Some permitted developments require an application process known as ‘prior approval’. Local Planning Authorities consider these applications against a list of criteria – which differ depending upon the class of permitted development. 

So, what is changing?

The Government introduced a big shake up last year with the introduction of a new use classes order in September 2020.  This has grouped together activities that were previously in different USE CLASSES and removed others. 

Note Use Classes are different from classes of permitted development. So it’s important to make sure if it is a use class or a class of permitted development being referenced.  Another example of how the GPDO is confusing – even for professionals.

One of these is the new Use Class E (Commercial, Business and Service Uses) – which has brought together previously separate uses including retail, light industrial, offices and professional services. This means that planning permission is no longer required to change between them.  

As the permitted development rights referred to the old use classes, new rules have been introduced from 1 August 2021. These will allow greater flexibility in some respects but are also significantly tighter than the previous rights in various ways.

Class MA Details

Permitted change from Use Class E to Class C3 residential (GPDO Schedule 2 Part 3 Class MA).

  • replaces a combination of rights conferred by various different classes (Class O, Class M etc) 
  • has effect from 1 August 2021
  • subject to a size limit of 1,500 sq m of floorspace changing use
  • applies to buildings that have been in Class E uses for two years, including time in former uses now within that class
  • buildings must have been vacant for at least three continuous months prior to an application
  • applies in conservation areas, but not in other article 2 (3) land such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and listed buildings
  • subject to prior approval by the local planning authority on specific planning matters
  • application fee of £100 per dwellinghouse up to £5,000.

Prior Approval Requirements

The prior approval requirements include transport, contamination, flooding, noise, and adequate natural light. Prior approval will also be required where relevant as to the impact on:

  • the character or sustainability of a conservation area caused by the change of ground floor use of a building within a conservation area.
  • the intended residential occupiers if the area is considered important for “general or heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution, or a mix of such uses
  • local provision if there is a loss of services provided by a registered nursery or health centre.

Pros and Cons

The new Class MA permitted development right will undoubtedly create a raft of new opportunities for change of use to residential development from a wider range of commercial uses.  But there are some notable differences from the previous rights that will have implications for planning strategies. 

Floorspace Limits

The floorspace limit of 1,500 sqm is a key change compared to Class O which allowed larger conversions from office to residential. However, if you are looking to convert retail premises, significantly more floorspace could be converted and with no restriction on ground floors or upon the number of dwellings up to the floorspace limit.


Then there is the requirement for the building to have been vacant for at least 3 months prior to the application (excluding closure during Covid restrictions). Whilst there is nothing in the GPDO to prevent a period of vacancy being engineered in preparation for an application, lease requirements and the prospect of losing out on rents could be costly and prohibitive for such a strategy.


You will also need to be mindful of the new planning application fee of £100 per dwellinghouse (up to a limit of £5,000).  This is somewhat higher than the the previous £96 fee for Class O office to residential prior approval applications. 

Get in touch with us today to discuss your proposal or to request a free download of our guide to the Use Classes Order. 

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