The government has launched an unexpected consultation which may indirectly highlight a new opportunity for landlords and other investors – converting retail units to residential.

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government is consulting on whether a shake up of the general permitted development order could see Class E be allowed to change use to residential.

Class E is itself new and currently covers a broad range of uses including retail, cafes and restaurants; financial and professional services; indoor sport and recreation; medical or health services (to visiting members of the public); crèche, day nursery and day centres, offices, research and development and light industrial.

If this change to permitted development comes into effect, it would significantly broaden the scope of the existing residential conversion rights – as it would not only apply to offices, light industrial and retail, but also to restaurants, gyms, medical facilities and crèches.