Changes of use such as converting an office to residential use. 

Because of the growing demand for residential properties for rental, many commercial premises are being converted to flats (so much so that for businesses seeking to move, office premises have become a little sparse). Therefore, some of our enquiries request help submitting a change of use planning application form for a change of use from B1 to C3. If the unit is for retail, we apply for A1 to C3 (or to Mixed Use: A1 and C3, if it is to retain the shop unit and convert to residential on the floors above). In some cases, the planning officers request an Economic Statement to explain how the application will impact the local economy, and this helps them to decide the case.

The process is easier if it can be done under Permitted Development, although we are equally proficient in preparing full planning applications. Do see some of our case studies to give you an idea of what can be achieved. (See also the table below for most of the use classes & definitions).

We create architectural drawings for a great layout design in your new flat(s), and we offer to submit the application on your behalf. Our designers then liaise with the planning officers during the process, with no extra charge from us. [We can also support you later at the pre-construction stage with Building Regulations Drawings, and at the build stage with Tender Packs and Contract Administration for your refit or conversion to residential use.]

Property Developers

Whether you are a ‘newbie’ or a seasoned developer, we can work together. For new developers, we can support their wish list with our informative and helpful services. For experienced developers, we can provide efficient services to free up much of their time to think of your next project and give you a better work/life balance. We also like to network with developers regarding new plots, which are very much sought-after in the capital. Therefore developers can always consider themselves invited to our offices for coffee, and a presentation of flagship projects.

Our designers can come up with bold, contemporary and tasteful schemes for you, or traditional styles which are sympathetic to the surroundings. Our planning consultants will recommend the best route to optimise your chances of approval. That could be the pre-planning application. route (this used to be called outline planning). Your proposal would most likely require a Design & Access Statement too, which we can commission externally. New builds will need to demonstrate via 3D animated renders the aesthetics and blending of the design. This can be done with our Immersive Design Package. Later we can provide your Building Regulations Drawings to satisfy Building Control, and for the construction phase, we recommend Tender Packs and Contract Administration to put you in the driving seat with the builders.

See our case studies for new schemes.

Refit or new business

We have recently provided branding and fit-out services for several restaurants. Do see some of our case studies. Again, we can support you with all stages, from your planning application for the new shop front or restaurant façade to our interior design service and the refit. Moreover, our graphics team can provide branding and corporate identity products to beautifully suit the new space we have created.

At Commercial Architecture we look at 7 aspects for each commercial application:

  1. social demographics adjacent to the proposed site
  2. the likely effect on economic factors the change of use will have
  3. how the change of use will benefit for the inhabitants of the immediate area.
  4. whether traffic will be affected
  5. how it will affect the surrounding area
  6. whether parking spaces will be adequate or impacted

We have a proven track record in successful change-of-use applications.
Get in touch so we can show you some examples.

A1Shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel & ticket agencies, post offices, pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners, funeral directors, internet cafes
A2Financial & professional services e.g. banks & building societies, professional services e.g. estate & employment agencies
A3Restaurants, cafés for consumption of food on the premises, snack bars
A4Drinking establishments e.g pubs, wine bars (not night clubs) including drinking establishments selling hot food
A5Hot food takeaways – For the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises
B1Business Offices (other than A2), research & development units, light industry appropriate for residential areas
B1 Vacant propertyIf the premises had been vacant 30.05.13, its last use has to have been office use.
B2General industrial – industrial processes other than B1 (excluding incineration, chemical treatment, landfill, hazardous waste)
B3 to B7Special industrial
B8Storage or distribution including open air storage
C1Hotels, hostels, boarding houses, guest houses
C2Residential institutions, care homes, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, residential colleges, training centres
C2ASecure Residential Institutions e.g. prisons, young offenders institutions, detention centres, secure training centres, custody centres, short term holding centres, secure hospitals, secure local authority accommodation, military barracks
C3 (a-c)Residential dwellings:
(a) a single person, family, a couple (married or unmarried), a relative of a family with the family, domestic employees like au pair, nanny, nurse, governess, servant, chauffeur, gardener, secretary / PA; a patient & carer; a foster parent & foster child.(b): up to 6 people living as a single household and receiving care e.g. hostels for people with learning disabilities or mental health issues.(c) up to 6 people living together as a single household. This does not fall under C4 HMO. It could be a small religious community or a homeowner who has a lodger.
C4Houses in multiple occupation, i.e. shared houses occupied by 3 and 6 unrelated individuals, who share a kitchen and bathroom.
D1Non-residential institutions, e.g. Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries, museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law courts. Non-residential education and training centres.
D2Assembly and leisure, e.g. Cinemas, music and concert halls, bingo and dance halls (not night clubs), swimming pools, ice rinks, gyms or outdoor recreational sports arenas / tracks (except motor sports, or firearms)
Sui generisBuildings that do not fall within any use class, e.g. betting offices/shops, payday loan shops, theatres, larger HMOs, hostels with not providing care, scrap yards, petrol filling stations or car. Retail warehouse clubs, nightclubs, launderettes, minicabs, amusement centres, casinos, buildings used for agricultural purposes
Mixed useE.g. Retail & residential, or retail & office
B1 Vacant propertyIf the premises was vacant before 30.05.13, its last use has to have been office use.

Further information

Material changes of use

These include any change of use whose proposed use is residential or part-residential, e.g. converting commercial properties into homes such as an office above a shop which is to be developed as a flat. This is a conversion of a commercial property to residential, or part-residential.

Other examples for material change of use:

  • house to a flat conversion
  • flats to house conversion
  • convert shop to residential

Recent amendment regulations cover a wider range of development cases where a proposed material change of use to a building may not require planning permission. Article 10 of the Regulations [2] covers several categories of development that have been exempted.

Conversion of a commercial building under 1, 2, 3, and 6 use classes to residential use have been exempted under certain conditions. The affected use classes include the following:

·         Class 1 – Shops

·         Class 2 – Professional & financial services to the public

·         Class 3 – Offices

·         Class 6 – Guesthouses

If a building has remained vacant for a minimum of 2 years, change of use to residential use can be considered as exempted development.

If you would like further information on material change of use case law, see link.

Contact us at CA for a free consultation and quotation

The incessant demands for livable spaces mean that there is an enduring need to create new residential units. Commercial or industrial spaces that are unused or have lost their intended purposes present a pristine opportunity for repurposing. Given the sheer amount of space that can be put into practical function, the question of whether you need some sort of permission has always been raised. The short answer is no, you do not need any planning permission to undertake this conversion of office or light industrial spaces to residential units, such as flats.

Permitted development rights or PDRs is a scheme that was prescribed by the government to allow for a change of this nature without the strenuous process of acquiring permission. This B1 to C3 conversion permission was granted back in 2013. It was initially a temporary offering but has since become a permanent one. There are, of course, limitations that apply in regard to the impact to transport and highways, risks of flooding and contamination, and most importantly, of noise pollution. If these can be overcome, then the change does not need to be approved by any regulations, unless your Local Planning Authority (LPA) has some prescribed some other conditions, which is not often the case (checking is encouraged nonetheless).

A few considerations

The process is not as straightforward or hassle-free as we imply it to be. There is still some information that needs to be divulged and evidence that needs to be provided for the application process, for the change to go through Prior Approval. You have to prove that the current use of the space is Light Industrial.  You need to have a clear strategy and design for the conversion project. This determines whether other policies come into play, and whether levies, such as Community and Infrastructure Levy, will apply. A detailed site plan is therefore an important prerequisite. This, among other things, will guarantee that transport will not be interrupted and other neighboring industrial services will not suffer any interruptions or losses.

Should all this be taken care of, the LPA will verify your provided information and seek the corroboration of the highway authority, the Environment Agency and make assessments of contamination and flooding risks. This typically takes 56 days before a deliberate response is offered which will give you the go-ahead to continue with your envisioned development.

The Quality Issue

Of importance is that the housing that is inevitably provided is of high quality. A UCL study determined that the high rates of development led to an inconsistency in the quality of developments that were being rolled out, with the main concerns been that the amenity spaces were limited, the designs were of low quality, and that the locations for residential amenities were unsuitable. This underscored the supposition that these conversion developments in town centres and cities were ill-suited since the facades of the new developments would indubitably interrupt that which is already existing.

The Successful Take

A little help goes a long way especially in ensuring that there is total compliance with the LPA and that the whole process of repurposing, including interior and exterior designs ends up a success. The advantage in seeking some outside architectural guidance is that you may also get branding assistance, if that is of concern to the success of the project. When you get that assistance through the Prior Approval process your chances of success shift from uncertain to pretty much guaranteed. Given how much investment, both in time and money goes into such a project, a little help, undoubtedly, goes a long way.

If you are thinking of having a commercial architecture design for your project, our team uses 3D rendering software to create Immersive Design visuals which almost make you feel as if you are in or around the space itself. This way you can visualise the proposal at the outset and ask for amendments, and these are easier for planning officers to view than 2D plans.

You can take advantage of technology by using our 3D rendering services to create virtual reality walk-throughs of your commercial development. This can save you money on expensive Light Surveys in the event of contention. Also, it will save money on materials and finishes because you will negate the experimenting process of trial and error by doing them virtually.

Incidentally, we can make unlimited revisions with our accurate 3D modelling software, until you are happy with the look of your conceptual renders which will bring your ideas to life and walk through the design to demonstrate the flow of movement in the new design. Having a good design will quickly add value to your business, making your investment cash flow positive in the shortest time.

A good example of our 3D rendering interior design visuals was a change of use application from retail use class A1 to a martial arts training gym which is use class Leisure D2 and an acupuncture clinic which is use class Sui Generis. It was quite a large space of 2,400 square feet so we also added a café area, reception and an office.

Our team created a layout design according to the hierarchy of importance for each function, which was reflected in the respective sizes. Also, the different interior finishes reflect the desired atmosphere for each space. For example, the training area has simple finishes and mirrors, the acupuncture clinic used frosted glass for seclusion, and the café used natural materials and subdued lighting to promote rest and relaxation.

We successfully gained planning approval for our client’s change of use application from Sutton Planning Department. This was largely due to our 3D Immersive Designs for him, but also to a detailed Transport Assessment Report as part of his pre-planning application stage which justified the choice of location for the facility. Located in Sutton, it has good transport links which allowing easy access and reducing the need for many parking spaces on site.

Commercial Architecture were responsible for the interior fit out of the Park Inn Hotel in London.

As the hotel was close to Heathrow Airport, we wanted to ensure that the interiors created a sense of comfort and for the traveller to feel at ease, after a long journey.

Commercial Architecture were asked by the Phoenix Hotel Group (who had acquired and invested in the former Travelodge Hotel) to design the interiors of the hotel’s bedrooms.

Located in the vibrant London area attracting many affluent businesses types and travellers from the Far East, the client’s brief was to explore and exhibit Chinese culture and lifestyle into the bedroom spaces.

With this brief in mind, we created minimalist designs highlighting Chinese culture which would create an oasis for the guests.

Simplistic exhibition of Chinese patterns and colours with furniture finishes influenced by classic Eastern designs.

Korea’s leading brand in nail cosmetics, Lumi Garnet, appointed us to completely refresh their identity for their chain of salons in Korea. They have over 200 nail salons over the world and were interested in re-branding them by implementing a new theme in their stores and salons, for a bright and fresh identity.

1. The first option was derived from the aim to highlight the brand’s vibrant colours and the fluidity of the nail polish. The brief was to create design options which could be easily implemented in all their branches; and were easy to install, economically viable, sustainable and easily  maintained.

2. The second option was designed with a wavy flowing ceiling to imitate the dripping of nail varnish, again highlighting the fluid product.

The stripy ceiling was designed to consider three functional requirements: to reduce glare from the overhead lighting; to be discreet enough to disguise the structural columns; and (due to the floor being made of resin, a sound reflecting material) creating a balance with the ceiling shape.

The interior is comprised of 3 separate areas – public, semi-public and private – with varying seating arrangements so that customers can choose the environment best suited to their mood. The colourful LED lights were representative of the vibrant nail polish colours and also functioned as a system to direct and navigate the customer through the main spaces.

After having worked with Lumi Garnet, the clients were happy for us to expand our boundaries to work with their main brand OPI. The below image is an option showing a gallery space for the nail polish brand, and in addition, Commercial Architecture were also appointed to redesign the manicure bottles that would accompany the new envisioned interior concepts.

3D Visualisation of OPI’s nail polish gallery space.