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Amy Cater Tozers

Posted 3 November 2015
by Amy Cater

Change of use from office to residential: Permitted development rights made permanent

The Government has confirmed in a written statement earlier this month that the permitted development rights introduced in 2013 allowing the conversion of office premises (B1(a)) to residential use (C3) are being made permanent. Initially this scheme was only going to run until May 2016.   The announcement was made ahead of the publication of the Housing and Planning Bill and forms part of the Government’s plans to deliver one million homes by 2020.  Since the statement was released there has even been talk that developers might be able to demolish existing office buildings and construct housing in its place rather than simply converting the existing building.  This has yet to be confirmed however.

Under permitted development rights applicants can convert office space to residential use without the need for planning permission. Instead of submitting detailed and costly applications they only need to submit a Prior Approval application to the Local Planning Authority (LPA). With a Prior Approval application, the LPA should only consider the impacts of the change of use on the transport services, the highway impacts and contamination and flood risks.   The LPA cannot try to enforce minimum space standards or seek affordable housing contributions.  This will be welcome news to many developers.

The idea is to use up redundant office space and convert it to residential use, rather than developing agricultural and greenbelt land to cope with the ever increasing housing need. The Government considers that it will also provide opportunities for first-time buyers by providing more affordable homes. Whilst the permitted development rights will only deliver a fraction of the Government’s target for housing, it does give some certainty to developers looking to convert offices to residential use.

But let’s not get too carried away. Those prime office locations in central London and Manchester City, as well as areas of Kent and Hampshire, remain protected and will still require full planning permission for conversion. After all, the office demand in these areas is not only very high, but it is of economic importance to the local economies. There are currently 17 local authorities that are exempt from the permitted development rights and these exemptions will remain in place until May 2019, giving the local authorities time to consider making an Article 4 direction to protect their strategically important office accommodation.

According to the Government there have been nearly 4,000 conversions of office space to residential use that have been given approval between April 2014 and June of this year. Many people were taking advantage of the “temporary permitted development rights” which enabled them to carry out the conversion to residential use. The problem was, however, that the development had to be built and residential use commenced before the cut-off date in May 2016. Now that these permitted development rights are being made permanent developers will have 3 years to complete the change of use.  This will hopefully mean that the conversion of these buildings will not be rushed through and they will be developed more sensitively with future users in mind.

The Government will announce more details about the permitted development rights in due course.

For more information contact Tozers Planning law team on 01392 207020 or email:


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About the author

Amy Cater Tozers

Amy Cater

Partner and Solicitor

A partner who specialises in planning and public sector matters