A Guide to ‘Prior Approval’ for Developers

Prior Approval – Beyond planning policy, what you need to consider. 

Prior Approval: Certain types of development can take place without the need to submit a planning application. This is known as ‘Permitted Development’. In order to be eligible for these permitted development rights, each ‘Class’ specified in the legislation has associated limitations and conditions that proposals must comply with. One such condition on certain classes of permitted development is the need to submit an application to the Local Planning Authority for its ‘Prior Approval’ or to determine if  ‘Prior Approval’ will be required. This allows the Local Planning Authority to consider the proposals, their likely impacts in regard to specific factors (e.g. transport and highways) and how these may be mitigated.

Prior Approval is required for:

  • Mixed Uses to Solely Residential (Class M)
  • Adding up to two flats to a current non-residential mixed use (Class G)
  • Commercial, business, or service to residential use (Class MA)
  • Agricultural buildings to residential (Class Q)
  • Agricultural buildings to flexible commercial use (Class R)

Mixed Uses to Solely Residential (Class M)

Where the proposal is a change of use from a mixed use to residential, this is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • Transport and Highways impacts.
  • Contamination and Flooding risks.
  • Provision of adequate natural light for the residential use.
  • Design or external appearance of the building (where building operations are required).

Adding up to two flats to a current non-residential mixed use (Class G)

Where the proposal is a change of use to add up to two flats to a current non-residential mixed use, this is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • Contamination and Flooding risks.
  • Impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the residential use.
  • Provision of adequate natural light for residential use.
  • Arrangements required for the storage and management of domestic waste.

Commercial, Business, or Service to Residential use (Class MA)

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • Transport impacts.
  • Contamination and flooding risks.
  • Impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the residential use.
  • Impact on the character or sustainability of the conservation area (if relevant).
  • Provision of adequate natural light for the residential use.
  • The impact on intended occupiers of the introduction of residential use in an area considered to be important for general or heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution, or a mix of such uses (if relevant).
  • Impact on the adequate local provision of Nursery or Health Centre services (if relevant).
  • The fire safety impacts on the intended occupants (if relevant).

Agricultural Buildings to Residential (Class Q)

Agricultural buildings are permitted to change to a residential (Use Class C3) use. This can also include specified building operations reasonably necessary for the conversion to function as a dwellinghouse:

  • The installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, or exterior walls, or water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services.
  • Partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out building operations.

This is subject to meeting certain limitations and conditions, including:

  • Creation of no more than five separate dwellinghouses (including any previously created under this right).
  • Up to three of the five can be ‘larger dwellinghouses’ (floor space of 100-465m2).
  • ‘Larger dwellinghouses’ can total no more than 465m2 of floor space (including any previously created under this right) and no single dwellinghouse can exceed 465m2.

This also includes the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • Transport and highways impacts.
  • Noise impacts.
  • Contamination and flooding risks.
  • Location or siting of the building.
  • The design or external appearance of the building (where building operations are required).
  • Provision of adequate natural light for the residential use.

Agricultural Buildings to Flexible Commercial Use (Class R)

Agricultural buildings are permitted to change up to 500m2 (including any previous changes under this right) of floor space to a flexible commercial use, comprising B8, C1 or E Use Classes. This is subject to limitations and conditions, including (where the cumulative floor space of the change of use exceeds 150m2, including any previous changes under this right) the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • Transport and highways impacts
  • Noise impacts
  • Contamination and flooding risks.

Minimum Space Standards

Since 30th September 2020, all Prior Approval applications to Residential Use must now also meet the minimum space standards of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Prior Approval Permitted Development

Check out Duncan’s article on Linkedin on five aspects that you should look to consider when purchasing land with consent. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-things-developers-should-check-when-buying-planning-duncan-gunn/

We work with developers and land-owners to maximise the potential of their sites. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units, and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

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