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Planning Permission Not needed for Office-Home Projects

Housing minister Brandon Lewis has uncovered more details of the UK government’s decision to permanently permit empty offices to be converted into residences without planning permission.

Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced the move as part of a series of reforms. The policy was scheduled to expire on May 30, 2016, but now the due date has been extended.

Mr Lewis confirmed that in addition to making the policy permanent, those who already have planning permission will be given three years to finish the conversion, ending a potential uncertainty for developers.

These rights will now permit the demolition and conversion of industrial buildings, office buildings, and launderettes.

The LGA opposes the extension. Peter Box, housing spokesman cllr, said that the temporary policy was intended to make it easier to rejuvenate empty offices, but some local councils have reported the eviction of existing businesses by landlords wanting to profit from the higher sale prices and rates associated with residential use.

Mr Box pointed out that such activities have reduced the amount of office space required for economic growth and in some instances replaced it with housing that does not meet local needs and remains unaffordable.

The policy came into effect in 2013 as a means of temporarily providing development rights to convert offices into homes without delays associated with planning permission. According to Whitehall, 4,000 homes were brought forth between April 2014 and last June.

The UK government stated that eliminating these rights in 2016 could possibly introduce red tape and bureaucratic complications that would impede conversions and slow down the production and delivery of new homes.


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Mr Lewis, who was recently named chair of a cross-industry panel to make local planning processes simpler and faster, said that the government is determine to do everything necessary to supply needed housing.

He said that the new measures will allow the potential of underused buildings to be tapped into, with the anticipated result being new homes for first-time buyers and families. At the same time, the green belt will be protected and preserved.

Areas that presently need a planning application for conversions will need to make an Article 4 direction by May 2019 if they want to continue doing so.

17 local authorities have areas consisting of individual zones, roads, or buildings that are presently exempt from the rights.

They include the city of London, the London Central Activities Zone, regions of Stevenage and Ashford, parts of Sevenoaks and East Hampshire, and the city centre of Manchester.

Places that have obtained prior approval or receive permission will have three years to complete the change of use.

The government will reveal more information about these new rights “in due course”, but has insisted that the conversion process will be both subject to certain limitations and prior approval from local planning authorities.

British Property Federation chief executive Melanie Leech welcomed the policy and called the Housing Bill one of the most important ones before Parliament.


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