How to apply for planning permission for your commercial to residential conversion


At a time when our high streets and business districts are changing beyond recognition, commercial to residential conversion is becoming more popular than ever.

All over the UK, developers are exploring opportunities to turn buildings that were once shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants, offices, factories, and barns into homes.

Making these projects especially desirable is the fact that many of them don’t require full planning permission to be granted. However, this doesn’t mean that you can simply buy an old commercial property and get to work: there are still some development hoops to jump through, and you may still require planning permission in some cases.

This blog gives you the basics on getting started with your commercial to residential conversion.

Do I need planning permission for a commercial to residential conversion?

The short answer to this question is ‘maybe’, because it depends on the type of work you’re planning to do. If you intend to change the exterior of the property in question, then you will generally need planning permission for a commercial to residential conversion.

The 2015 General Permitted Development Order means that planning permission is not required if the property remains under the same use class. This means that any commercial to residential conversion that meets the criteria has to be approved by the council. However, in some cases, an application for Prior Approval might be needed, so that the local planning authority can assess suitability regarding parking, highways, land contamination, flooding, and the impact on the local property market.

What should a commercial to residential conversion application involve?

If you do need to apply for either full planning permission, prior approval or a lawful development certificate, then the first step is to talk to an architect who can advise on the suitability of your plans. Alongside this, you should conduct a full measured survey of the property in question (unless you already have existing survey drawings available).

Equipped with this information, your architect or building partner can help you put together your application package. This may include a pre-application, if your project is especially large and would represent a significant financial commitment.

What if the building is listed?

If you want to conduct a commercial to residential conversion on a listed building, then full planning permission will definitely be needed.

The planning authorities are also far more likely to impose conditions on the nature of your development, in terms of its design, layout or even the materials you can or cannot use in the construction works. Similar restrictions tend to apply to properties sited in conservation areas.

How can I give my commercial to residential conversion application the best chance of success?

Partnering with an experienced expert in commercial to residential conversion is vital, not only to smooth the planning application or prior approval process, but to ensure you get the right building work done in the right way.

At Buildsmith Solutions, we’ve been supporting developers like you with conversion work and administration for several years, and we know what it takes to get your plans over the line. Find out more on how we can help you on our commercial to residential conversion page, or get in touch with us to discuss your specifics.