Do you have a commercial building or use that’s proving hard to let or do you need some flexibility of use for marketing a property?

If so, it’s worth knowing that there are permitted development mechanisms available which can enable you to move with the market and make the planning system work a little bit more flexibly for you.

Introducing Dual-Use Permissions

One such mechanism is a dual-use permission, which we’ve recently used for a number of city centre schemes in Bristol and Bath to provide our clients with various end-use scenarios.

Essentially, a dual-use permission (granted under permitted development Class V of Part 3 of Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development (England) Order (2015) (Changes of Use) is a little known, but extremely useful permitted development right that allows you to apply for planning permission for two separate uses that can be used flexibly and interchanged over a 10 year period.

Whichever use is in operation at the end of that 10 year period becomes the established lawful use of the property.

There are no restrictions on the use combo, so you can detail the existing use and one other, or look at securing two new separate uses.

How Dual-Use Permissions Can Help You

The main benefit of a dual-use permission is that it allows a property to switch unfettered between the approved uses over a 10 year period, thus providing greater flexibility for marketing a building and broadens the scope of the potential uses.

In addition, where there are difficult policy issues in terms of the loss of an existing use, for example a unit within a primary shopping frontage or a use that benefits from a policy presumption in favour of retention, then the existing use can be retained as one of the dual uses, so that it doesn’t get ‘lost’ (well at least not for the subsequent 10 year period).

The dual-use differs from a multiple-use permission in that there is no limit to the number of times that uses can be switched over the 10 years and it’s not necessarily tied to specific floorspace areas of a building. Multiple-uses are invariably shown allocated on floorplans which are then specifically listed in a decision notice – such that consent is still required for any variation to the approved quota/distribution of uses.

Securing Dual-Use Rights

In order to secure your dual-use rights, a formal application process is required – it’s essentially still a planning application so all the relevant validation requirements for the particular Local Planning Authority should be supplied.

Furthermore, any application must explicitly refer to the dual-use under Class V throughout (thus within the description of development, the registration letter, the final decision notice and/or any attached conditions), or it will not represent a valid dual-use permission. So double-check this with your case officer prior to issue of the final decision.

The upshot should be a consent that allows you maximum flexibility between two land uses over a 10 year period – useful in a fickle and fast-shifting market.


As a quick heads-up on some other permitted development restrictions, it’s also worth remembering that permitted movement between various use classes doesn’t apply to listed buildings or to buildings within excess of 500sqm floorspace.

Also, be aware that permitted development rights can be removed through conditions.

Of current interest is Use Class O (offices to dwelling houses). This can’t necessarily be exercised if there is a condition on any previously implemented consent which specifically states/restricts the use of the building – we’ve recently come across this on a site in Weston super Mare that is ripe for residential conversion, but for a previous condition restricting occupation to B1(a) business. Frustrating not to be able to take advantage of the prior approval determination process (and not really in the spirit of the legislation), but little point in wasting time/resources pursuing this route if only to require a full consent in the long run.

Whatever your site/building, it’s always worth exploring what opportunities are available to you under permitted development rights – whether it’s to unlock a stalled site in the short term or to preserve a potential land use for a later date. Contact us with your development conundrum and we’ll help you find the most appropriate route through the General Permitted Development Order.