The office to resi permitted development rights to become permanent (finally)

The Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, has announced what we have all been waiting for – the permitted development rights allowing offices to be converted to homes (office to resi permitted development rights) will not expiry in May next year as originally planned, but will become a permanent fixture of the planning system.

This will delight developers all over the country. Whereas they must jump through many hoops to secure full planning permission for such a conversion (meeting minimum room sizes, providing outdoor space and parking, providing good light and outlook, and making financial contributions to infrastructure), the permitted development rights allow a straight conversion with relatively few restrictions.

Local authorities will be less impressed. They are worried about the quality of the new flats being created and the loss of commercial floorspace. They are also concerned that redundant old office buildings that might otherwise be comprehensively redeveloped are instead becoming the subject of quick and easy conversions, doing little to regenerate the surrounding area.

A number of Councils have brought in Article 4 directions, removing the office to resi permitted development right in part or all of their districts, though it is not clear to what extent these directions will survive over time.

In future it is proposed that the office to resi permitted development rights will be widened to also allow for demolition of office buildings and the building of new residential development. The current PD rights only enable a change of use and any external works had to be the subject of an application for planning permission. It remains to be seen what restrictions and conditions will be imposed in relation to this much broader PD right.

New permitted development rights will also be brought in to enable a change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to homes.

The government continues to mull over future changes to permitted development and to the planning system in general, including some possible changes to enforcement and enforcement notices. Keep an eye on our blog for more news on the ever-changing world of planning application and planning appeals!