Exterior of block of flats in London

Over 18,000 affordable homes lost thanks to permitted development rights

More than 18,000 affordable houses have been lost nationwide due to office-to-residential conversions under permitted development rights, the Local Government Association has warned.

Permitted development means that full planning permission is not required and has resulted in a total of 73,575 new houses being converted from offices since 2015. This means that there is less of a contribution to the number of affordable houses available, as well as not holding the quality of the residences to the same standard as those that are required to get full planning permission.

The Local Government Association represents 350 councils across England and Wales and has suggested that permitted development rights should be removed, to ensure that all conversions and new developments can contribute to the delivery of much needed affordable homes across the country.

Councillor David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said:

“Councils will continue to play a key role in helping the nation to level up and recover from the pandemic, and that includes meeting our joint ambition with the government to tackle the housing shortage and build the homes we desperately need.

There is a need for more affordable housing across the country but regrettably premises such as offices, agricultural buildings, shops, restaurants, and light industry can now be converted into houses without the need to provide any affordable homes.

This is why we would like to see the permitted developments rights removed. Giving planning powers back to councils will also support local ambitions to revive and reimagine high streets and town centres. The upcoming Queen’s Speech should also give councils further powers to bring vacant properties back into use.

A local, plan-led system is crucial in delivering on levelling up ambitions to ensure councils can deliver the right types of homes in the right places with appropriate infrastructure, ensuring a mix of high-quality affordable housing that meets the needs of local communities, while also giving those communities the opportunity to shape and define the area they live in.”

Improving the quality of housing on offer, whilst ensuring more affordable housing is available is a key part of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper and, if Cllr Renard’s suggestion is accepted, the removal of the permitted developments rights would go a long way to help local communities realise their Levelling Up ambitions and improving the communities for residents and businesses alike.

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