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18.01.18

LGA: Action must be taken on rate of offices being converted into new houses

Current permitted development rights that allow offices to be converted into housing without permission are detrimental to local economies and should be scrapped, councils have today stated.

Research carried out by the LGA found that since 2015, more than 30,500 housing units in England had been converted from offices to flats without permission, due to current rules governing new developments.

Though nationally this only amounts to around 8% of new homes, in some parts of the country the rate is as high as two-thirds of all new homes.

In areas such as Nottingham, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hounslow and Harlow, half of new builds were converted offices.

Local government leaders now fear that office space could dry up due to the state of the market, meaning that businesses and start-ups without any premises will have nowhere to base themselves.

“Councils want to see more affordable homes built quickly and the conversion of offices into residential flats is one way to deliver much-needed homes,” Martin Tett, LGA housing spokesperson, explained.

“However it is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process. At present, permitted development rules allow developers to bypass local influence and convert offices to flats, and to do so without providing affordable housing and local services and infrastructure such as roads and schools.

“Permitted development is detrimental to the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in.”

Tett also argued that planning was not a barrier to housebuilding and that councils approved around nine in 10 of all planning applications.

“But it is essential that councils, which are answerable to their residents, have an oversight of local developments to ensure they are good quality and help build prosperous places,” he concluded.

“The resulting loss of office space can risk hampering local plans to grow economies and attract new businesses and jobs to high streets and town centres.”

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