It is quite rare that a property has reached it's full economic and planning potential. However, many properties, especially in highly built up areas, cannot be significantly larger. In these circumstances, demolition and rebuilding is not the most economically viable option. Significant value can be added however, by obtaining more units within the existing building, or changing it into a more profitable use. If this is of interest to you, please see our guides to these development options below.
Conversions, subdivisions and amalgamations
Conversion of Houses into flats and subdivision of flats
It can be highly profitable to split a house into several flats. When combined with extensions to the house (click HERE for more information on this), it can add a huge amount of value, and can allow for a higher rental yield than would be possible with a single house. Obtaining permission for such works is normally possible, as the principle of such developments is supported by the need for more housing. However, issues such as the quality of accommodation, impacts on neighbours, transport impacts, parking and refuse/recycling arrangements can undo an otherwise viable scheme. Our planning consultant previously dealt with a very large number of such schemes when working at Local Planning Authorities. With this considerable knowledge and experience, we are uniquely well-suited to help you get permission for such schemes.
Conversion of Houses (or flats) (use class C3) into Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO)
Obtaining the appropriate consent for a HMO is complicated by HMO's falling within two land use classes; their own use class (C4) if they are deemed to be a small HMO (six people or less sharing) and sui generis (see the end of this page for explanation on sui generis) if the HMO would house seven or more people.
In general converting from a C3 (dwellinghouse) to a C4 HMO use does not require planning permission, but this is not always the case. Converting from a C3 to a sui generis HMO normally requires permission. Such works in theory are viable in most places, though they can be significantly more controversial with some Councils than others. Issues such as the quality of accommodation, impacts on neighbours, transport impacts, parking and refuse/recycling arrangements can undo an otherwise viable scheme. In any case, our knowledge and experience will give you the advantage to get your scheme through.
There can be instances where it is desirable, and profitable, to convert several residential and/or commercial units into one unit. Whether such schemes are viable or not depend on what impact they have on the supply of housing or impacts on the vitality and viability of a shopping area. In general amalgamations of commercial units or amalgamating flats into a house (or one larger flat) that had originally been built as a single dwellinghouse are normally more likely to be acceptable. Converting numerous flats into a house (or one larger flat), especially if the development consists of purpose built flats, are likely to encounter greater resistance, although it does depend on the specific circumstances of the proposal.
Changes of Use
The rules regarding changes of use that do not require planning permission (known as "permitted development") have been relaxed to an extent, in particular in regard to changing into residential uses, as a way of delivering more housing. Such changes of use can be highly profitable investments, but generally a process called "prior approval" needs to be completed first. Local Planning Authorities have the right to refuse an application for prior approval. Given this, it is a wise and worthwhile decision to have planning consultants with expertise to help obtain the relevant consent. For a fuller explanation of prior approval, please see our "Types of applications we deal with" page.
Below is a general guide to typical types of changes of use. Reference to different land use class categories comes from the Land Use Classes Order 1987 (as amended). It is not an exhaustive guide, given the number of different types of change of use possible, but should be of some benefit to giving you an idea of the issues involved with such development, and is no substitute for formal advice and assessment. For formal advice and assessment, please contact us.
Commercial uses to Residential (use class C3)
This is probably the most common form of change of use sought after, being both profitable and often not requiring permission. Changes to residential where prior approval can be sought include office and light industrial (use classes B1(a) and (c)), Storage and Distribution (use class B8), Retail (use class A1), Financial and Professional Services (use class A2) and some sui generis uses (for more on sui generis see the end of this page). Converting from other uses to dwellinghouses is possible but planning permission would normally be required. It should be noted that the tests regarding whether prior approval is refused or not varies between these types of uses, and therefore different aspects of such changes of use would need to be demonstrated to be acceptable.
Changing from one commercial use to another
The typical "high street" uses (they normally involve face to face contact with customers) fall within use category A, and include Retail (use class A1), Financial and Professional Services (usc class A2) Restaurants/Cafes (use class A3), Pubs (use class A4) and/or Hot Food Takeaways (use class A5). Many of these uses can be changed between each other without requiring planning permission, though often prior approval must be applied for first and not refused. Changes to other uses (except for dwellinghouses, see above) normally require planning permission.
Typical commercial uses outside category A, which do not normally involve face to face contact with customers, fall within category B. This includes business (use class B1, including offices (a), research and development (b) and light industrial (c)), general industrial (use class B2) and storage and/or distribution (use class B8). Many of these uses can be changed between each other without requiring planning permission, though often prior approval must be applied for first and not refused. Changes to other uses (except for dwellinghouses, see above) normally require planning permission.
Commercial uses which include an element of accommodation include Hotels (use class C1), residential institutions (use class C2) and secure residential institutions (use class C2A). Many of these uses can be changed between each other without requiring planning permission, though often prior approval must be applied for first and not refused.
Other types of changes of use
Non-residential institutions (use class D1) include medical and health services, creches, day nurseries, day centres, educational facilities, non-commercial art galleries, museums, public libraries/reading rooms, public halls, exhibition halls, religious/worship uses and law courts. Most properties within use class D1 do not enjoy permitted development rights, and therefore planning permission would be required to change from D1 to another use or from another use to D1. Some general exceptions to this include changes to state-funded schools and registered nurseries and some temporary uses.
Assembly and leisure (use class D2) refers to uses including cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls, dance halls, swimming baths, skating rinks, gymnasiums, leisure centres and other types of sports facilities. Most properties with use class D2 uses do not enjoy significant permitted development rights, and therefore planning permission would be required to change from D2 to another use. Changing from other uses to D2 without permission is more common however, such as from A1 (retail) and A2 (financial and professional services), and some sui generis uses (although prior approval must be applied for and not refused first), and changes to state-funded schools and registered nurseries and some temporary uses from D2 normally does not require permission.
Sui generis refers to any type of land use which is not specified within the broad categories of the Land Use Classes Order. Common sui generis uses include theatres, casinos, amusement arcades/centres, launderettes, betting offices, pay day loan shops, petrol stations, car showrooms, hostels and night-clubs, but the sui generis definition also encompasses numerous rarer uses including dangerous industrial uses. Most properties with sui generis uses do not enjoy permitted development rights, and therefore planning permission would be required to change from sui generis to another use or from another use to sui generis. One exception to this is that properties with some common sui generis uses can be converted to residential developments (use class C3) or assembly and leisure (use class D2) without requiring planning permission, although prior approval must be applied for and not refused first.