1 MAY 2018
This research, conducted by a research team led by Ben Clifford from University College London, assesses the impacts of extending permitted development rights for office to residential conversions in England. Utilising an in-depth case study approach, this research sought to determine whether enhanced freedom to change the use of property has threatened the development of sustainable communities through the loss of public revenue and unwelcome externalities.
It has been possible since May 2013 to convert a building from being an office into residential use without needing planning permission. This policy of deregulation was primarily intended to boost the supply of housing but also to help regeneration through reuse of vacant office space. The impact assessment for this policy change predicted that:
Key issues considered in the research were the financial implications for local authorities and the broader implications for communities from office-to-residential change of use becoming ‘permitted development’ with reduced scrutiny and control by LPAs.
A qualitative case study approach was taken. Five local authority (LA) case studies were examined (Camden, Croydon, Leeds, Leicester and Reading) to gauge the extent of individual office-to-residential building schemes that have proceeded under PD and the implications on LA revenues, planning and local communities. For comparison, the research also looked at office to residential conversion in Scotland and the Netherlands.
Overall, office-to-residential PD has been a fiscal giveaway from the state to private real estate interests, whilst leaving a legacy of a higher quantum of poor quality housing than is seen with schemes governed through full planning permission.
Key findings include:
In response to these challenges, the report makes recommendations regarding the action needed by central and local government, local communities and civic groups and developers and their agents.
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