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Optimising Development Under Class MA

Planning consultant David Kemp BSc (Hons) MRICS Barrister* (*non-practising) and Director at DRK Planning Ltd, comments

Permitted development rights under Class MA came into force from 21 April 2021 (SI 2021 No.428). In the time since then, local planning authorities have been adapting to the changes to permitted development rights and seeking to understand and apply their limitations whilst trying to manage severe pressures on time and resources.

Alongside this, in a highly competitive climate for convertible stock, with soaring build costs, developers are under pressure to find as much value as possible from conversion and development schemes.

These two factors require a considered and strategic approach to these applications to manage risk and time, as well as enhance the prospect of consent for the optimum number of units, in the least possible time.

All references to Class MA in this article are to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 as of 7 March 2022.

The application ‘clock’
Council officers generally have to try to process applications and determine them within certain set time periods, such as 8 weeks for most applications up to 1,000sqm or 10 units, or 13 weeks for larger applications. This can be extended by agreement with applicants.

If a Class MA application is submitted, then the developer obtains deemed approval by law after 56 days (8 weeks) if the Council has not determined it in time. This means that if officers are struggling to review a case promptly in this time, and issues arise such as a lack of information in the application or minor changes to the plans or clarifications needed, then some Council officers would rather issue a refusal then let the matter drift past 56 days, which puts the risk back on to the developer’s shoulders.

It is possible to agree extensions of time with officers on Prior Approval applications (Article 7(c)) but it is not very often used, with Planning departments generally preferring to stick to the 8-week timeframe for administrative and grant-funding reasons (they receive money from Central Government for meeting planning delivery timescales).

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