Changes to Permitted Development rights could give businesses a wider scope for building works, but preparation is the key to success.

Permitted Development is a national grant of planning permission by Parliament to allow certain works or changes of use without having to make a specific planning application to a local council.

They are subject to various conditions, limitations and exceptions, which vary considerably. Special provisions also apply to developments affecting environmentally or scientifically important or protected species, sites or areas.

This year, new regulations for Permitted Development rights came into force consolidating provisions which dated from 1995 and had been subsequently amended 22 times.

Storage and distribution buildings along with amusement arcades, casinos and certain commercial properties can all now be converted. The change of agricultural buildings to residential properties has also been reclassified. However, inconsistencies adopted by planning authorities, and in some instances their resistance to the policy behind those Permitted Development rights, continue to present real problems.

If planning building works, the first thing to establish is whether the proposal amounts to development. Most building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land are. So is the making of any material change in the use of a building or other land. And even where the proposals meet the conditions of the development rights placed on them, they may still need prior approval but not a separate planning application. But there are exceptions so it is best to check.

There are two types of development–operational and change of use–so two types of Permitted Development. In respect of change of use, the changes are more extensive and affect a wide range of property.

However, if they amount to development, they will require a planning application unless specifically authorised under other legislation. Some types of Permitted Development still require advance notification to the local authority and or prior approval.

This area of regulation can seem confusing and is also open to interpretation on whether planning consents are needed or not.

Ultimately, if there is an irreconcilable difference of view between the developer and the planning authority, certainty can be achieved in court.

Pragmatically, however, an application can be made to the planning authority for a certificate of lawfulness. The grant or refusal of such a certificate is legally binding on the authority.

In virtually all classes of Permitted Development, the issues require careful examination. Advanced identification and preparation is not only a matter of good sense but is essential to securing the best chance of a favourable outcome.

By Stephen Evans, Commercial Property Lawyer, Coodes Solicitors