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Class MA is one of the most popular permitted development rights available to property investors looking to change commercial properties to residential dwellings.


Class MA allows the change of Use Class E commercial buildings to Use Class C3 residential dwellings.


There are of course certain criteria to be met and restrictions to its use but we will cover them in this post so you know what you can and can’t do.


Use Class E covers buildings such as shops, offices, restaurants and cafes, financial and professional services, light industrial, medical or health services as well as crèches, day nurseries and more so there are plenty of opportunities out there!

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What are the new changes?

The rules around Class MA were changed on the 5th March 2025.

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Previously buildings were required to be vacant for the 3 months immediately before the application however this rule has now been scrapped and Class MA can be applied to occupied properties.

There also used to be a maximum limit of 1500sqm floor area that could be converted but this has been removed and now buildings of any size can be converted – there is no limit!


If in the past only part of a building has been converted to comply with the 1500sqm limit, the rest of the building could now also be converted.

What are the other rules?

No other changes have been made to the rules, so all others still apply which are:

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No External Alterations Allowed:

All changes must be internal meaning that new windows and doors cannot be added and would need a full planning application. Windows can be added to the ground floor of commercial units via Class A or Part 7 so you could cycle through permitted development applications to get to your desired outcome but, any changes to the upper floor don’t have permitted development rights. Every Council works differently, and some are happy to have Class MA applications run alongside planning applications for new windows. Alternatively, you will need to apply for planning and install the windows in advance of the Class MA application if your local Council aren’t as flexible.

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2-year Rule:

The building must have been in Use Class E for at least the last 2 years. This is a rolling two-year period and so must be 2 years prior to the application date. For example if the application was submitted on the 19th March 2024 then the building would have to have been in Use Class E since 19th March 2022.

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Conservation Areas:

Class MA can be used in Conservation Areas though which is a big plus. When proposing changes to the ground floor in Conservation Areas, the Council can assess the impact of the ground floor changes on the Conservation Area and refuse the application if they deem them to be unsatisfactory.

Restricted Use Areas:

Class MA cannot be used in Article 2 Land (AONB, National Parks, The Broads, etc), SSSI, Safety Hazard Zones, Military Explosive Areas, Scheduled Monuments and Listed Buildings which does rule out a few options.

You still need to submit an application

Class MA still requires a Prior Approval application to be submitted and can be rejected if certain conditions are not met. Applications cost £125 for every dwelling being created and the application becomes live the day after submission or payment of the fee (whichever occurs later) - there is no waiting for the Council to validate the application. The Council have 56 days to assess the application and reject it. If they don’t respond within the 56-day timeframe then the application is automatically granted. Once approved you will have 3-years to commence the conversion works.

How are Applications Assessed?

There are a strict number of criteria that the Council are able to assess the application against which are:

  1. Transport & Highways

  2. Contamination

  3. Flooding

  4. Noise (from adjacent commercial units)

  5. Natural Light (to all habitable rooms)

  6. Industrial Use (in the area)

There are some additional extras that only apply in certain circumstances:

  1. If the existing use is a registered nursery or health centre then an impact assessment will take place

  2. If the property is in a conservation area than the Council can assess the impact of the ground floor changes on the Conservation Area

  3. If the building is higher than 18 metres or contains more than 7-storeys above ground then a fire safety report will be required

What else can stop Class MA?

Article 4 directions give Councils the power to remove permitted development rights. When Article 4 is mentioned, most investors presume the change of use from C3 residential dwelling to C4 HMO has been removed but, they can apply to any permitted development right. If your property falls within an Article 4 boundary, check your local Council website to see what permitted development right has been removed. If it states that Class MA commercial to residential conversions have been removed then you won’t be able to make the change unless you apply for full planning permission.

Where can I read the legislation?

If you want to read the legislation then it is available here at the website.

What else do I need to know?

If you are looking for help with your project and want to maximise its potential then drop us an email at to discuss our services.

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