Monday, 8 February 2016

New planning measures announced allowing conversion of underused office buildings into new homes.

In a bid to simplify the planning system, drive growth and tackle the country’s acute shortage of housing, Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis announced new planning measures on 13 October 2015. Redundant offices have a huge potential to provide much needed new housing and this move is certainly going to bring smiles to the faces of many first time home buyers, stated Curry Popeck Solicitors.

First introduced in 2013, temporary permitted development rights make it possible to convert offices into homes without having to apply for planning permission. It led to 4,000 conversions being given the go-ahead between April 2014 and June 2015.

The rights were due to expire on 30 May 2016, and would have led to bureaucracy hurdles that would have hampered the conversion of underused office buildings, thus disheartening many first time home owners. But, ending the uncertainty for the developers and first time owners, Housing and Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, announced that they are to be made permanent.

Mr Lewis said: “These measures will mean we can tap into the potential of underused buildings to offer new homes for first-time buyers and families long into the future, breathing new life into neighbourhoods and at the same time protecting our precious green belt.”

To further support the new planning measures and make way for new homes, developers will be allowed to demolish offices and convert light industrial buildings and launderettes into homes. Converting commercial buildings into residential developments can be an attractive prospect, but there are a few things to consider, mentioned Curry Popeck. The rights to demolish redundant office buildings and build new residential buildings will be subject to limitations and prior approval by the local planning authority.Those with prior approval or who secure permission will have three years to complete the change of use.

The new move by the government, which has been welcomed by many first time home owners, has faced criticism though from big commercial landlords, who say that converting office buildings into residential spaces would hamper economic growth and employment opportunities. They further opposed the move by saying that while they understand that lack of housing is a big problem, commercial crises is a problem that needs to be addressed too.

While the changes to the rules encouraging office-to-residential conversions are temporary and are facing some opposition as well from the commercial landlords, the government is expected to make them permanent and drop many of the exemptions.

Please contact CurryPopeck Solicitors if you would like more information on the issues raised in this article or any aspect of planning and development. Curry Popeck, solicitors and mediators, can provide you with expert legal advice

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