Class MA – Use Class E to residential – offices, shops, gyms, cafes, restaurants etc.

Class MA is a powerful new change of use to go from Use Class E to Residential. It does have a few limitations and conditions which we will go through below. MA apparently stands for Mercantile to Abode although we think that is just a rumour as other Class MAs exist in other parts of the GPDO.

This change of use is for any building in the following uses: Shops, Financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, offices, light industrial, medical or health services, creches, day nursery, indoor sports etc. or indeed anything in Use Class E.

Any conversions under Class MA must be for residential use only and cannot be converted to an HMO for example. Sorry!


Class MA changes from 5th March 2024

For any application submitted on or after 5th March 2024, there is now no limit to the floor space that can be converted under Class MA and there is no requirement for the building to be vacant for 3 months.

At this time all other aspects such as the assessment in Conservation areas to the ground floor and not being allowed in AONB, National Parks, SSSI, The Broads, Listed Buildings etc., remain.

Any application made before this date must be vacant for 3 months and limited to 1,500 sq m. The legislation for these changes can be found here.  The legislation below has already been updated.

As a result buildings that have been part converted could now potentially be fully converted to residential. Planning Geek can assist you with the application via our team of planning consultants. Click here to get a fee proposal for your opportunity.


Date Stamp for commercial conversion

This is now a rolling two year period. It must have been in one of the uses mentioned above or Use Class E for at least 2 years. So if today was 1st May 2024 then it must have been in a required use on 1st May 2022 and so on.


Additional Planning Required? 

If your building requires additional windows, doors or indeed anything external you will probably need to submit an additional planning application in order for these changes to take place. Under Class MA it is not possible to submit any external changes in the same application. The local authority might be willing to condition these new windows, or may expect them to already exist. If it is the later then you will need to submit an application for that first under a commercial unit. You might be able to add commercial windows to the ground floor of the property under Class A of Part 7, but otherwise additional planning will be required.

Class MA - commercial, business and service uses to residential

Article 4 restrictions blocking Class MA

A new Article 4 would have to be in place to prevent offices or indeed anything within Use Class E being converted under Class MA.

Several local authorities are planning to bring in new Article 4 restrictions preventing parts of their area from being converted. You are advised to check with your local planning authority to see if they have plans and if they do the date from which that might take effect. As long as your application is validated before this date you will be fine. Note that this date be pushed back depending upon the process for creating the Article 4. If you need help, reach out to the team at Planning Geek.


Other Conditions and assessments

There are as you might expect a few other conditions that you need to comply with.

You cannot use Class MA in

But you can do it in a conservation area however if converting the ground floor then an impact assessment will be undertaken.

Assuming none of the above restrictions affect you, then the local authority will assess the application against Transport & Highways, Contamination, Flood Risk, noise from commercial units affecting residents, natural light to all habitable rooms and if the conversion might affect business or similar area. If the existing use is a registered nursery or health centre then an impact assessment will also take place.

The application under Class MA has a time limit, like several other prior approvals of 56 days. Once granted you have three years from the date of the prior approval to carry out the works. There is a fee to pay of £120 per dwelling under Class MA.

If the building is higher than higher than 18 metres (ignoring plant & machinery on the roof) or contains more than 7 stories above ground then a fire safety report will be required. See the DMPO 2015 extract below for the legislation.

Check out other permitted development options on our changes of use page.


Application Form and checklist

You can submit via the Planning Portal for Class MA. Please note that the Planning Portal will levy a service charge of £70 including VAT for each application. You might be able to pay the local authority directly. We have created a useful planning application checklist for Class MA which you can download here.

Please note that although all local authorities should be the same, some may vary within their validation process – if in doubt check with them. The application is not valid until the form is completed and the application fee of £120 per dwelling is paid. Once this has been done the 56 days will start to count.



MA. Development consisting of a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use falling within Class E (commercial, business and service) of Schedule 2 to the Use Classes Order to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of Schedule 1 to that Order.

Development not permitted

MA.1.—(1) Development is not permitted by Class MA

(b) unless the use of the building fell within one or more of the classes specified in sub-paragraph (2) for a continuous period of at least 2 years prior to the date of the application for prior approval;

(d) if land covered by, or within the curtilage of, the building—
(i) is or forms part of a site of special scientific interest;
(ii) is or forms part of a listed building or land within its curtilage;
(iii) is or forms part of a scheduled monument or land within its curtilage;
(iv) is or forms part of a safety hazard area; or
(v) is or forms part of a military explosives storage area;

(e) if the building is within—
(i) an area of outstanding natural beauty;
(ii) an area specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 41(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981;
(iii) the Broads;
(iv) a National Park; or
(v) a World Heritage Site;

(f) if the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless the express consent of both the landlord and the tenant has been obtained; or

(g) before 1 August 2022, if—
(i) the proposed development is of a description falling within Class O of this Part as that Class had effect immediately before 1st August 2021; and
(ii) the development would not have been permitted under Class O immediately before 1st August 2021 by virtue of the operation of a direction under article 4(1) of this Order which has not since been cancelled in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 3.

(2) The classes mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(b) are the following classes of the Use Classes Order—

(a) the following classes of the Schedule as it had effect before 1st September 2020—
(i) Class A1 (shops);
(ii) Class A2 (financial and professional services);
(iii) Class A3 (food and drink);
(iv) Class B1 (business);
(v) Class D1(a) (non-residential institutions – medical or health services);
(vi) Class D1(b) (non-residential institutions – crèche, day nursery or day centre);
(vii) Class D2(e) (assembly and leisure – indoor and outdoor sports), other than use as an indoor swimming pool or skating rink;

(b) on or after 1st September 2020, Class E (commercial, business and service) of Schedule 2.



(1) Development under Class MA is permitted subject to the following conditions.

(2) Before beginning development under Class MA, the developer must apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to—

(a) transport impacts of the development, particularly to ensure safe site access;

(b) contamination risks in relation to the building;

(c) flooding risks in relation to the building;

(d) impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development;

(e) where—
(i) the building is located in a conservation area, and
(ii) the development involves a change of use of the whole or part of the ground floor, the impact of that change of use on the character or sustainability of the conservation area;

(f) the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses;

(g) the impact on intended occupiers of the development of the introduction of residential use in an area the authority considers to be important for general or heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution, or a mix of such uses;

(h) where the development involves the loss of services provided by—
(i) a registered nursery, or
(ii) a health centre maintained under section 2 or 3 of the National Health Service Act 2006, the impact on the local provision of the type of services lost.

(i) where the development meets the fire risk condition, the fire safety impacts on the intended occupants of the building.

(3) An application for prior approval for development under Class MA may not be made before 1 August 2021.

(4) The provisions of paragraph W (prior approval) of this Part apply in relation to an application under this paragraph as if –

(a) for paragraph (e) of sub-paragraph (2) there were substituted—
“(e) where—
(i) sub-paragraph (6) requires the Environment Agency to be consulted, a site-specific flood risk assessment;
(ii) sub-paragraph (6A) requires the Health and Safety Executive to be consulted, a statement about the fire safety design principles, concepts and standards that have been applied to the development,”; [see interpretation of Class MA below]

(b) in the introductory words in sub-paragraph (5), for “and highways impacts of the development” there were substituted “impacts of the development, particularly to ensure safe site access”;

(c) after sub-paragraph (6) there were inserted—
“(6A)Where the application relates to prior approval as to fire safety impacts, on receipt of the application, the local planning authority must consult the Health and Safety Executive.”; [see interpretation of Class MA below]

(d) in sub-paragraph (7) for “(5) and (6)” there were substituted “(5), (6) and (6A)”;

(5) Development must be completed within a period of 3 years starting with the prior approval date.

(6) Any building permitted to be used as a dwellinghouse by virtue of Class MA is to remain in use as a dwellinghouse within the meaning of Class C3 of Schedule 1 to the Use Classes Order and for no other purpose, except to the extent that the other purpose is ancillary to the use as a dwellinghouse.”.

Interpretation of Class MA

Development meets the fire risk condition referred to in paragraph MA.2(2)(i) if the development relates to a building which will—
(a) contain two or more dwellinghouses; and
(b) satisfy the height condition in paragraph (3), read with paragraph (7), of article 9A (fire statements) of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 [see below]


Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 ( DMPO 2015 )

Fire Statements

9A – (3) The height condition is that—
(a) the building is 18 metres or more in height; or
(b) the building contains 7 or more storeys.


(7) For the purpose of paragraph (3)—
(a) the height of a building is to be measured from ground level to the top floor surface of the top storey of the building (ignoring any storey which is a roof-top machinery or plant area or consists exclusively of machinery or plant rooms);
(b) when determining the number of storeys a building has—
(i) any storey which is below ground level is to be ignored; and
(ii) any mezzanine floor is a storey if its internal floor area is at least 50% of the internal floor area of the largest storey in the building which is not below ground level.


Page updated:  15th May 2024