Permitted Development Rights - Class MA case studies

Permitted development rights might look easy, but we know that decisions can still go against you. At Searchland, we've compiled 3 case studies to show where others went wrong (or right) and what you can do to improve your chances.

Hugh Gibbs
February 22, 2024

Class MA January 2022 Case Studies

Important note: Class MA permitted development rights were once again updated as of March 4 2024, with floorspace size limits scrapped as well as the requirement for buildings to be vacant for 3 months prior to application. These Class MA  case studies were completed prior to that change.

The past couple of years have seen several significant changes to permitted development rights that have created many opportunities for property developers through the introduction of Class MA, the weakening of Article 4, and the new Use Class E.

If you’re not 100% up to speed on these, or just want a quick refresher, then have a look at our Complete Guide To Permitted Development Rights in January 2022, which has tables, analysis, and explanations to help you make the most profitable decisions this year.

Today, we’re taking a look at three examples of prior approval applications that have been submitted in the context of the current regulations landscape and see what they did right and wrong. We’ve included the codes so you can look them up yourselves if you want for more detail.

4 Grimsdells Corner Sycamore Road Amersham Buckinghamshire HP6 5EL


Application validated: 28/10/2021

Proposal: Converting a ground floor retail unit for tyres and exhausts since the 1960s to one residential apartment with two bedrooms and a gross internal area of 99.5m2

Outcome: Refusal – existing use not Use Class E

Proposed floor plan
Credit: Jane Duncan Architects

Existing elevations
Credit: Jane Duncan Architects

The developers had consulted the local Council in 2017, who advised that the conversion would be possible under permitted development rights Class M (before Class MA appeared) but that, as ever, it was up to the Local Planning Authority.

Here’s a summary of what the developers wrote in their supporting letter – the bits we’ve bolded are the criteria:

  • The property had been vacant for at least three months before the application and the lease of the retailers ended on 24 March 2021.
  • The building had been Use Class A1 for a continuous period of at least two years before the application. This was confirmed in the Council’s advice from 2017.
  • The site wasn’t on any Article 2(3) land, a listed building, hazard zone, etc.
  • The developers argued that it would have no adverse impact on transport or the local highway network due to good local transport links.
  • They had checked the records of the Council, Environment Agency, and the National Coal Authority, and mentioned there would be no ground work disturbance, all of which meant no contamination risks.
  • There was no flood risk.
  • The developers did submit a separate planning application to enlarge existing windows and add some more (remember that Class MA doesn’t allow external changes), so that there would be sufficient natural light for residents.
  • They also specified measures: triple glazing on windows facing the existing, next-door garage and acoustic walls added internally to minimise noise impacts on the residents.

But they were refused. The reasons given were: failing to meet criteria, particularly 1(b), and that Environmental Health were concerned about the impact of noise from next door on future residents and that not enough acoustic information had been provided to understand what measures would be required to limit noise.

Criteria 1(b) says development is not permitted “unless the use of the building fell within one or more of the classes specified in sub-paragraph (2) for a continuous period of at least 2 years prior to the date of the application for prior approval”.

Although the Council had stated that the premises were Use Class A1, they were not Use Class E after the changes to the Use Classes, making this ineligible for Class MA conversions.

3 Teignmouth Parade Bideford Avenue Perivale Middlesex UB6 8BZ


Application validated: 08/11/2021

Proposal: Change of use from bank to residential (Use Class C3)

Outcome: Refusal – lack of sufficient natural light

This proposal did submit a supporting letter, but it is not accessible online; they planned to convert the ground floor of a bank, Use Class A2, now E(c)(i), into three flats. This built on a previously approved application from July 2020 to convert part of the ground floor into two flats that was never acted upon.

The intended development:

  • Had no problems with criteria related to contamination, flooding, noise, vacancy, prior use, or restricted areas;
  • It was mandated that it needed extra bicycle parking spaces, a total of six. The supporting letter said these would be inside the flats;
  • Would not impact on local amenities or services.

But, where things fell down was the level of natural light, as no mention was made in the application of measures to ensure enough. You can see below the proposed layouts.

Floor plans of proposed ground floor Class MA development

Proposed floor plan
Credit: Buckmaster Batcup Architects 

Existing front elevation drawing of proposed Class MA development

Existing front elevation
Credit: Buckmaster Batcup Architects

Existing architectural drawing of existing building

Existing rear elevation
Credit: Buckmaster Batcup Architects

This is what the planning officer had to say:

  • Flat 1’s plan does not indicate where the proposed habitable rooms would be. This, plus the flat being L-shaped and no further information being provided meant that the officer could not tell whether the rear rooms would get any light, even if there was enough at the front due to the windows.
  • Flat 2 would likely receive enough light.
  • Flat 3’s habitable rooms probably would receive enough light, but it was unclear if the bedroom would as well. Further information was needed as to whether the full height glazed door would provide enough for the bedroom.

Not providing enough information about access to light, or making provisions for it, for one out of the three flats was enough to refuse this prior approval application.

Whilst this precise situation obviously does not always occur, it does highlight one of the main problems that converting commercial buildings into residential buildings brings. Some of them can be unsuitable in the first place, naturally not having been designed for accommodation, and, if granted permission, are not optimal homes - all of which contributes to controversy around Class MA. It is because of such controversy, that requirements on natural light and minimum accommodation size were introduced.

Sunset Court High Street Princes Risborough Buckinghamshire HP27 0AX


Application validated: 18/11/2021

Proposal: Change of use from offices to four two-bed apartments with some external alterations

Outcome: Granted

Proposed floor plan of Class MA apartment

Proposed first floor plan
Credit: Andrews Eades Chartered Surveyors

Proposed ground floor plan of Class MA apartment including outside space

Proposed ground floor plan - 18 more parking bays extend below
Credit: Andrews Eades Chartered Surveyors

South west elevation architectural drawing of building

South west elevation
Credit: Andrews Eades Chartered Surveyors

North east elevation architectural drawing

North east elevation
Credit: Andrews Eades Chartered Surveyors

And now we come to the success story of this article; despite being situated in a conservation area, the proposal was approved without need for further documents to be submitted thanks to a comprehensive set of supporting information that addresses many factors.

  • They specify that there will be sufficient natural light due to windows in each habitable room.
  • There is no contamination or flooding risk as no changes would be made to that could cause these.
  •  Noise impacts on occupiers would be minimal.
  •  Impact on transport or highways is limited as there are parking spaces with the development and existing access ways.
  • There are also sufficient amenities for occupiers and the development would have no impact on local amenities and services.

Hopefully this shows how black and white the permitted development rights are. What is crucial, just as it has always been with anything planning-related, is showing the Local Planning Authority that your proposed development addresses all the necessary criteria.

Our first example was a bit of an outlier, the property not being Use Class E so ineligible for Class MA, but the second example didn’t adequately explain how there would be sufficient natural light (or make any real mention of it). On the other hand, the final one was very thorough in addressing everything.

If you worry that you will not meet all criteria, perhaps consider submitting a planning application at the same time to make alterations to the exterior that will overcome any issues - better to apply to add windows now than have to start all over again.

How can Searchland help me with permitted development rights?

You’re probably already considering your next acquisitions and looking for the most profitable purchases. But with that comes trawling through documents, viewing sites, trying to find the information you need – all of which takes time.

We can tell you if a property is Class MA compatible straightaway. Searchland’s intuitive software simplifies the whole process of sourcing properties and all the documents you might need, leaving you time to prepare an infallible application.

Contact us to find out how we can save you time and boost your profits.

Hugh Gibbs
March 1, 2023

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