The change of use from pub to residential is something we handle frequently here at Planning Direct. If you’re looking to convert your public house to one or more houses or flats, this page provides some helpful planning advice.
Want to find out more about other popular changes of use? Then follow the links below.
Apply for planning permission
If you’d like to convert a pub to residential use, you first need to secure planning permission for a change of use. The change of use will be from “sui generis” to use class C3 (dwellinghouses).
This means you need to submit a planning application to your Local Planning Authority (this is normally your local council). Your council will then assess your planning application and either approve or refuse it.
Follow the link below to find out more about change of use planning applications, including what they are, what the different use classes mean and what they include.
If you’re looking for some general information about planning applications – including what you need to submit, what the fees are and how long they take – follow the link below.
How do I improve the chances of my planning application being approved?
When they assess your planning application, your council has to take account of their local planning policies and any other material planning considerations.
Material planning considerations
Material planning considerations are matters in addition to planning policies that your council can and should take into account when they assess planning applications. In fact, there is a rule in planning that allows your council to approve development in conflict with their planning policies if they are satisfied that material planning considerations support this. Material planning considerations include things like road safety, previous planning decisions, privacy and nature conservation. Click the button below to find out more about material planning considerations.
Local planning policies
Although the content of local planning policies will vary, there are certain key planning issues that most – if not all – councils in England and Wales will take into account when they consider an application for the change of a pub to residential use. These are discussed below.
Key planning issues
What are the key planning issues?
Local planning policies will vary and it is important that your planning application is designed to meet the policies in force in your local area.
No matter where your pub is located, however, your local council will almost certainly take the following key planning issues into account when considering its change of use to residential:
Effect on local community facilities
Like village halls, sports venues and places of worship, pubs are considered to be a type of community facility. At the national level, planning policies seek to retain and improve community facilities wherever possible.
When it comes to the change of use from pub to residential, the effect on local community facilities is by far the most critical planning issue and the most difficult hurdle to overcome. If your planning application is refused, it is highly likely to be for this reason alone.
Policies generally seek to stop or slow the closure of pubs
Furthermore, since the year 2000, around a quarter of all UK pubs have permanently closed and this has had unfortunate social and economic consequences. There is generally agreement across political divides that efforts should be made to halt or at least slow this trend.
To this end, lots of local councils have adopted their own policies to resist the conversion of pubs to other uses. These often contain specific, strict criteria that must be met in order for your council to support the conversion of your pub to another use. These criteria will vary from place to place, however the following requirements are common:
The property has been actively marketed for a reasonable period without serious interest
Many councils expect to see evidence that you’ve genuinely tried to sell the property as a pub without success. Some councils set specific marketing time periods, sometimes up to 2 years. If your asking price is too high or you’ve turned away any reasonable offers, your council is unlikely to support its change of use.
There is no longer demand for the pub
Often, councils want to be satisfied that there is no clear demand for the pub. Sometimes, providing evidence that there are plenty of other pubs in the area to meet local demand is enough. However, if the local community strongly objects to the loss of the pub, your council may consider this to be evidence of demand.
The pub is not financially viable
If there is no reasonable prospect of a pub remaining (or becoming) financially viable, most local councils would agree to its change of use. However, this is not always easy to demonstrate. Local councils will pay particular attention to the following matters:
- Is the evidence of the pub’s financial situation unbiased and convincing? For example, has it been prepared by an independent specialist based on facts and financial accounts?
- Is there still a good chance changes could make the pub viable again? For example, internal refurbishments, changes in management or offering (like changing opening hours or adding food to the menu).
There are enough similar facilities in the area
Some local councils will support the change of use of a public house if they are satisfied that there are already enough similar facilities in the area. These might not necessarily be pubs but could include other similar community meeting spaces like cafes and social clubs. Generally speaking, it will be expected that these other similar facilities are within reasonable walking distance of your pub (often 800m).
Exceptions are frequently made to these requirements
Depending on the specific policies in force in your area, you may be expected to meet just some or all of the above requirements. If that isn’t possible, all is not necessarily lost as exceptions are frequently made to local policy requirements.
In these circumstances, however, the onus is on the applicant to convince the council that an exception should be made. For example, your change of use may be supported in these circumstances:
- you have failed to meet the minimum marketing period BUT
- your planning application is accompanied by compelling evidence that the business is not – and could not reasonably be made – financially viable.
Effect on character and appearance
“Character and appearance” is the way a place looks, functions and feels.
- its buildings – for example, what is their size and style?
- its layout – for example, are buildings close together or far apart? And where do cars park?
- its uses – for example, is it mainly residential, commercial or a mix?
- its type and amount of activity – for example, is it a busy town centre or a quiet village street?
When it comes to a change of use from pub to residential, your council will mainly be concerned about:
The effect of physical changes, especially external
Physical changes include things like removed signage, new openings (doors/windows) and the introduction of domestic features and paraphernalia (garden boundaries, bin stores, washing lines etc.). Your council will ask:
- are physical changes designed and constructed to a high quality?
- are they “in keeping” with the building and surrounding area? For example, do new windows follow the style, positions and materials of existing windows? If there are already similar features in the area, your council is more likely to find the physical changes acceptable
- are opportunities to improve character and appearance taken up? For example, many public houses will have large car parks, meaning there is often opportunity to enhance character and appearance with a well-designed garden plan. Follow the link below to find out more about Planning Direct’s garden and landscape planning service.
The effect of the loss of the pub
As mentioned previously, pubs are a type of community facility. This means they are considered to contribute positively towards healthy, safe and well-connected communities. For this reason, your council will very carefully consider how the loss of your pub is likely to affect the community it serves. Your council will ask:
- Does the pub currently make a positive contribution to the character of the place?
- Would its loss cause the local community to become less vibrant or sociable?
The loss of a public house is far more likely to be acceptable in areas that already have a good range of public houses, cafes, restaurants etc. The loss of “the last village pub” is more likely to be resisted, although this can still be overcome with good marketing and/or financial viability evidence.
The general principle when it comes to the creation of new flats and houses is that they should be sited in “sustainable” locations. That normally applies to all new flats and houses, whether these are new builds or conversions from other uses (like pubs).
What is a “sustainable” location?
Sustainable locations are generally understood to be sub/urban locations where services and facilities (including shops, schools and workplaces) can be accessed from the home using sustainable transport modes. Sustainable transport modes include walking, cycling and public transport.
If the pub is located in an area where new housing is generally resisted, your council may object to its residential change of use on this basis alone.
In what areas is new housing generally resisted?
Normally, housing is resisted in “open countryside”. Open countryside is rural land located away from any settlement. It may also include very small rural settlements, like clusters of old farmhouses and hamlets without shops or pavements.
Housing may also be resisted in areas that are important for heritage, landscape or nature conservation etc. That could include land in AONBs, Green Belts and National Parks.
Housing may also be resisted on the edge of settlements, especially if this would lead to expansion of the town or village into open countryside.
What if the location of my pub is not “sustainable’?
This is actually one of the easiest hurdles to overcome! This is because in the vast majority of cases, the residential conversion of a pub will lead to a reduction in unsustainable journeys* to and from the site.
*by private car or taxi.
Planning Direct has repeatedly and successfully presented this argument.
Standard of accommodation
Your council will need to be satisfied that the property would provide an acceptable standard of accommodation to its new residents. Given that pubs tend to be large buildings set in spacious grounds, it is rarely difficult to achieve this. However, if you’re looking to convert the pub to multiple flats, more care will be needed.
Your council is likely to have policies that dictate the design of new homes and these apply as much to housing converted from other uses as they do to new builds. Local design policies often dictate the form, layout and size of gardens, parking facilities and internal rooms. There may also be policies governing the provision of natural light, circulation spaces and floor-to-ceiling heights.
Effect on heritage assets
If the change of use has the potential to affect a heritage asset*, your council is legally required to take this into consideration.
*When would my change of use have the potential to affect a heritage asset?
This is likely to be the case if:
- the building is listed (Grade I – II) or locally listed
- the building is close to one or more listed buildings
- the building is in or adjacent to a conservation area.
In these circumstances, permission for your change of use will normally only be granted if its effect on heritage assets is beneficial or neutral.
If your pub is an older, traditional building there is a very good chance it is listed. Follow the link below to find out whether your property is statutorily listed. If it’s not statutorily listed, it might still appear on a local list. You’ll need to check that with your local council.
Your application must include a heritage impact assessment (HIA)
If your change of use has the potential to affect a heritage asset then your planning application must include a heritage impact assessment. A heritage impact assessment explains the significance of the affected heritage asset(s) and describes the likely impact of the change of use on this significance.
Heritage impact assessments should be proportionate to the scale and impact of a development. If your change of use is very straightforward, it’s likely you’ll only need a basic heritage impact assessment. Click the button below to find out more.
What do I need to submit with my change of use planning application?
Your planning application for the change of use of a pub (sui generis) to residential (C3) should normally include:
- Application form
- Planning statement
- Design & access statement
- Planning drawings:
- Site location plan
- Block plan
- Existing and proposed floorplans
- Existing and proposed elevations.
Planning Direct can provide all of these documents either as part of our start-to-finish planning service or as one-off products. Click the links below to find out more.
Other requirements will vary depending on the site and its location, the type and amount of physical changes (if any), who your local council is and what their planning policies are. To help you, we’ve listed below some of the most commonly requested documents and explained when these are likely to be needed.
Evidence of marketing
This will be needed if a relevant local policy requires the property to have been marketed as a pub without success. As a minimum, the evidence should normally contain the following information:
- Date the property was first placed on the market (and date removed, if relevant)
- Copy of sales particulars
- Asking price and any reductions
- Number of enquiries, viewings and offers
- Reasons for turning down offers (if relevant)
- Letter from the Property Agent providing their professional opinion of the unsuccessful marketing exercise (e.g. location is undesirable, property is unsuited to pub use).
Financial viability assessment
If a relevant local policy requires evidence that the pub is not financially viable OR you are seeking to rely on this as a material planning consideration, you should submit a financial viability assessment with your planning application.
This should assess the business’s financial accounts over previous years. Ideally, it should also apply CAMRA’s Public House Viability Test which seeks to establish the trade potential of the premises. Access a copy here:
How can Planning Direct assist with my change of use application?
Start-to-finish planning service
Planning Direct can assist you with all aspects of your change of use application. Our start-to-finish planning service includes the following:
- design guidance
- planning drawings
- planning statement
- design & access statement
- case management*.
*this means we will submit the planning application on your behalf and then act as your agent throughout the process, liaising with your council and any other parties until a decision is reached.
Follow the links below to find out more about these individual planning services.
As part of our start-to-finish planning service, we will also identify whether there is a need for additional reports or documents such as financial viability assessments, marketing reports or heritage impact assessments. If these are required, we can either produce them in-house or commission them on your behalf. We will always discuss and agree this with you beforehand.
Follow the link below to find out more about how our external commissions work.
One-off planning services and products
However, not all of our clients require a start-to-finish service. For example, some already have drawings and others simply require a supporting statement* for an application that is already in progress.
*such as a planning statement, heritage impact assessment or transport statement.
For this reason, we offer all of our planning services as one-off products.
Contact us today to let us know exactly what you need and we’ll respond with a bespoke, no-obligation quotation. Our aim is to respond to all new enquiries within 1 working day and we rarely fail to achieve that!
How much will my change of use application cost?
There are two main expenses you’ll need to take into account. These are:
- The cost to prepare and submit the planning application
- The application fee which is payable to your local council.
Currently, the application fee for the change of use of a pub to a single house or flat (C3) in England is £462*. A small processing fee is added on top of this.
If you are looking to convert the pub to multiple flats or houses, each flat or house will attract a fee of £462*.
*please be aware that although we make every effort to keep our website up-to-date, application fees do change occasionally and you should always check the fees in place at the time of making your application.
For the latest planning application fees, go to the government’s Planning Portal:
Planning Direct’s fees for a start-to-finish change of use planning service start from £1195.
Please be aware that in certain circumstances your local council may request additional reports** which will attract additional fees.
*such as a heritage impact assessment, financial viability assessment or transport statement.
How can I keep costs down?
Generally speaking, the fewer physical changes you need to make to the building, the cheaper the planning application.
You’re also entitled to prepare and submit your own planning applications and there is no obligation to employ a planning consultant. However, a good planning consultant can save you time and money in the long run. This is because there are many pitfalls in planning (technical and otherwise) that the average home or business owner cannot help but stumble into. For example, planning drawings must be drawn to particular scales and include specific features. If it takes you multiple attempts to get this right, you’re likely to spend more money overall.
At Planning Direct, our aim is always to secure our clients the best possible outcome at the lowest possible price. Contact us today to find out more about how we work.