Prior Approval secured for a change of use from offices to 7x residential flats in Haverhill

7 flats prior approval

We are delighted to have secured planning permission for 7 self-contained flats in Haverhill.  This project throws up some interesting points about the differences between change of use and prior approval applications and ascertaining which route is most suitable for your particular project.

The project background

Our client approached us seeking a change of use for a set of vacant offices (B1 use), which they wanted to convert to 7 self-contained flats (C3 use).

As part of our initial review of the project, we established that the prior approval route could be utilised instead of a full change of use application. This meant that only issues relating to flooding, contamination and highways could be assessed by the Council rather than the full range of matters covered by policy.

Change of use or prior approval?

If you are seeking to change the use of a site or development, then there may be several planning routes available to you depending on various factors.  Two of the key planning strategies will likely be, either a change of use application or the prior approval route.

Generally speaking, you will need to apply for planning permission to change from one use class to another. A change of use is a detailed planning application which seeks to justify the loss of one use in favour of another and must consider a number of planning factors and policy requirements, for which detailed reports may need to be submitted to support the application.

The prior approval route is a lighter touch approach, although there is still an application fee to pay. It suggests that permitted development rights exist for the proposed development but, due to the nature of the proposed use change, approval still needs to be sought from the Council in respect of several areas, including:

  • Flooding;
  • Contamination;
  • Highways;
  • Transport.

There are also factors which can remove permitted development rights and the option to pursue the prior approval route.  For example, site designations such as the AONB, green belt or flood zones, and Councils can have Article 4 directions in place to remove PD rights in certain areas. Furthermore, it depends whether your proposed change of use meets the requirements as set out in the General Permitted Development Order 2015 (as amended) (GDPO).  For example, in this case GDPO requirements meant we also had to establish whether:

  • the building was in use as B1(a) office on 29th May 2013;
  • that there was no Article 4 Direction removing the ability to proceed down this route.

How a planning consultant adds value to this process

Our client came to us requesting a change of use application. Key to this project was our initial review, which explored the site history and context, relevant planning policies and weighed these up against the development aspirations of our client.  This first stage review was crucial, not only in helping us to set a robust planning strategy but also in identifying that the prior approval route could be utilised instead of a full change of use application.  This meant savings in terms of cost, time and risk for this project and our client, as only three issues were under consideration.

If you are considering a change of use and aren’t sure of how best to proceed, it is wise to seek the support of a planning consultant.  Within a few hours of research, we should be in a position to advise whether you require formal planning permission, and which application route will be most suitable for your requirements. Contact Caroline via to see how we can best help and to receive a no obligation fee quote for our services to assist.