1st January 2016
Government Extends Permission to Convert Office to Residential Developments
Government extends permission to convert office to residential developments
Brandon Lewis, the Housing and Planning Minister, recently announced that the Government has permanently extended the permitted development of office-to-residential properties.
The Government initially introduced the scheme in May 2013, and these temporary measures were due to expire 3 years later on 30 May 2016. Now, the permitted
development rights have been made permanent. This will effectively extend the time limit for those who already have existing prior approvals to complete
the conversion by May 2019.
Developers will have further permitted development rights to allow the demolition of office buildings to then rebuild as residential dwellings. This will
also include the change of use from light industrial and launderettes to residential use. A developer will have three years to complete the change
The announcement is clearly good news for developers and owners of office units that are currently underused. The shortage of residential housing coupled
with empty office space, particularly during the recession, meant the scheme was an attractive proposition for developers.
However, with an upturn in the economy, we may potentially see an imbalance between residential and commercial property availability in some areas as the
demand for office space picks up. One possible outcome may mean a squeeze on rental prices by commercial landlords for tenants requiring offices.
Under the current scheme, local authorities have the ability to make what is known as an Article 4 direction which allows them to continue to determine
permitted development on a planning application basis provided they are able to justify their decision. It is envisaged that this will be allowed under
the new scheme with local authorities having to apply by no later than May 2019.
Another concern has been raised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), who have stated that whilst they are not opposed to the idea of an
offices function being adapted to a housing use on a case by case basis, the homes delivered under the policy are exempt from space and environmental
standards and there is a clear risk that this will lead to low quality housing. They are particularly concerned about the number of very small apartments
being squeezed into converted office buildings across England.
As the Housing Bill passes through Parliament, full details of how this scheme will work should become clearer.
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