As part of its policy to make the planning system work more efficiently and effectively, Planning Minister Nick Boles announced on the 6 August that DCLG (Department for Commuities & Local Government) has published recommendations which are intended to cut red tape and make it easier to bring empty and under-used buildings back to life, revitilising our high streets and rural towns.

Nick Boles said:

"Thousands of empty and underused buildings, often on the edge of town centres, are going to waste because people do not want the hassle and uncertainty of submitting a planning application."

"Removing this barrier will bring more people closer to their town centres, providing a much needed boost to local shops and ensuring we make the most of buildings that are already there for new homes, nurseries and schools this country needs."

"Extending these permitted development rights on brownfield land will benefit all communities - whether in towns or the countryside."

In framing the new permitted development right for a retail building to change to residential (Use Classe C3) use, with the associated physical development to allow conversion to take place, DCLG is proposing that the right would amongst other things, allow conversion to a single dwelling house or a maximum of four flats, but not a small House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) (Use Class C4)

For further information on the proposals go to:


The consultation document can be downloaded here:




Question 1: Do you agree there should be permitted development rights, as proposed, for shops (A1) and financial and professional services (A2) to change use to a dwelling house (C3) and to carry out building work connected with the change of use?

How do you think the prior approval requirmeent should be worded, in order to ensure that it is tightly defined and delivers maximum benefits?

National HMO Lobby Response: The National HMO Lobby supports the proposal that conversion from A1 and A2 to C3 should be permitted development.  In areas of high concentrations of HMOs, this will offer an opportunity to provide homes for families and other long-term residents, to rebalance the demographic composition of the local community.

In particular, the Lobby supports the qualification that the proposal will “allow conversion to a single dwelling house or a maximum of four flats, but not a small HMO” [and presumably also not a large sui generis HMO].  The Lobby considers that it is essential, when providing permitted development rights, that a distinction is made between C3 homes and C4 HMOs.  Currently, there is legal confusion over whether ‘dwellinghouse’ comprises both, or is confined to C3 only.  A number of LPAs (Bristol, Portsmouth, Southampton, West Lancs) have decided to recognise C3 only as dwellinghouses, while others are more cautious, and include both.

But HMOs are not owned by householders, but by landlords, and are run as businesses.  They should not therefore be considered in the same light.  The Lobby regrets that a previous consultation on Extending permitted development rights for homeowners and businesses did not make this distinction, and now HMO landlords are able to take advantage of a permission which was apparently intended for householders only.  The Lobby welcomes the fact that the present consultation recognises the essential distinction between C3 and C4.  The Lobby trusts that any future changes to permitted development rights will observe the same distinction.

Further, the Lobby would like to see CLG clarify the concept of ‘dwellinghouse’, in support of the LPAs noted above.