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New Permitted Development rights

13th January 2016

The Government has recently announced that the temporary permitted development rights for a change of use from offices to dwelling houses will become permanent. This is part of its drive to try to find one million homes by 2020. While the permitted development right may only contribute a fraction of that target, it will help developers who want to convert offices into homes.

But what is permitted development? It means that planning permission for certain developments, which would otherwise require express planning permission, will be deemed to have been granted. These rights already exist in other contexts – for example certain small extensions, or sheds and greenhouses

In this instance, the new permitted development right will now allow buildings which have previously been used as offices to be changed to dwellings, without the need to get an express planning permission from the local planning authority for the change of use.

There are some exceptions where the new right won’t apply, notably where the offices are in a designated ‘Commercial Area’. An example of this is the City of London. In addition, only buildings actually previously used as offices will have the benefit of this permitted development right. This is to prevent developers building offices with the intention of side-stepping the requirements for residential planning permission. Also, the right won’t apply where the building is a listed building.

If you want to exercise the new right, you may still need approval for some details, for example in relation to transport, highways, contamination and flooding, and you certainly shouldn’t start any development without getting authority, and checking that the right applies to the building you have in mind. You will need building regulation approval for any structural alterations required to convert the building – but it does mean the planners cannot, in general, refuse consent to the change of use where the right is applicable

It looks as if the new right is here to stay, and the Government’s intention is that the rights will, in future, also allow demolition of office buildings and new building for residential use, subject to certain limitations.

Under the previous temporary right, almost 4,000 office to residential conversions were given the go ahead by planners from April 2014 to June 2015. The permanent right will provide some welcome certainty for those developers looking to convert offices into homes.

Robert Enticott. Partner and Head of Commercial property & Business Services 

Business, Commercial Property, General, George Ide, News, Residential Property Conveyancing
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