The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2016 (SE 2016/332) comes into force today, 6 April 2016.

The 2016 Order amends the existing law on permitted development rights, and significantly, makes permanent the right to convert existing offices to residential use following the announcement by the Government in October last year.


In May 2013, The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013 inserted a new Class J into the GDPO 1995.  Class J granted planning permission for conversion of class B1(a) offices to a use falling within class C3 dwellinghouses.  This was a temporary right, ending on 30 May 2016.

The GPDO 2015 repealed the 2013 Order, but restated the right as Class O.  This remained a temporary right, ceasing to have effect on 30 May 2016.

In October 2015, the Government made an announcement that Class O would become permanent and the legislation implementing that change has been awaited since then.  The 2016 Order was made on 10 March 2016.


The most significant change to Class O is that the right has now become permanent.  The wording requiring the use to have begun before 30 May 2016 has been deleted by the 2016 Order.

In addition, certain local authorities had secured exemption from Class O rights for particular areas, including most of Central London.  The 2016 Order provides that such exemption will continue to apply until 30 May 2019 but thereafter, development will be permitted under Class O, unless an article 4 direction is made by the local authority, which is expected in most cases.

Finally, there continues to be an obligation for the developer to apply to the local authority for prior approval, but the local authority may now consider the impact of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development, as well as transport, contamination and flooding.

The Order states that development under Class O is permitted subject to the condition that it must be completed within a period of 3 years stating with the prior approval date.


There was some confusion as to what exactly was required by the end date of 30 May 2016.  The 2015 Order stated that the “use” must have “begun” by that date, whereas the planning practice guidance stated that the “development” must have been “completed” by that date in order to avoid enforcement action and the need to make a fresh planning application.  There was room for debate as to what stage the development should have reached.  However, now the right has been made permanent, this uncertainty has been removed.

This will undoubtedly be welcomed by developers, as it will remove the rush to ensure that the residential units are completed and ready for habitation by the May 2016 deadline.  Funders will be reassured that they may lend on developments without having to consider whether or not the development can be completed, marketed and occupied by 30 May 2016.

Please note that this information is provided for general knowledge only and therefore specific advice should be sought for individual cases.

For further information, please contact Liza Lam-Kee on