Office to residential permitted development rights extended

Published on: 1st April 2016

The office to residential permitted development rights (PDR) were first introduced in 2013 to address the UK's continuing housing problem. The rights act as a national grant of planning permission that allows office buildings to be transformed for residential use without a formal planning application.

Initially the office-to-residential PDR were set to expire in May 2016, but in March the government announced its commitment to the scheme by extending the rights indefinitely.

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis commented on the schemes continuation: "The measures will mean we can tap into the potential of underused buildings to offer new homes for first-time buyers and families long into the future, breathing new life into neighbourhoods and at the same time protecting our precious green belt".

Are there any conditions?

Under the permanent rights, prior approval will still be required from the council and the applicant will have to prove that the building had an office use on 29 May 2013.

The extended PDR's will still be subjected to the same conditions for prior approval as the temporary rights. For example the local authorities may well step in if the proposed change in use presents a contamination or flood risk. A condition has also been inserted allowing councils to consider noise impacts on the intended occupants of the development from nearby commercial premises.

Are there any exclusions?

Those areas, which include parts of Central London and Manchester city centre, that currently hold exemptions will see these removed with effect from 31 May 2019.

It will therefore be after this date that local authorities may choose to bring into force Article 4 Directions to protect their existing office buildings. The effect of this direction is that once in force permitted development rights for this type of development are withdrawn and applicants must seek planning permission from the council.

Can you make structural changes to the buildings?

We wait to see what happens regarding the more drastic changes first introduced by the planning minister in October. For now planning permission will still be required for any external alterations to facilitate the change from office to residential use. The suggestion that the right may extend to demolition and rebuilding looks like it may have to wait until the Housing and Planning Bill, if it comes into fruition at all.

What can we do to help?

  • Firstly we can undertake planning appraisals to establish if your properties will benefit from the permitted development right.
  • We can offer advice to residential landlords who may be looking to develop existing offices into residential accommodation.
  • We can scope prior approval applications and offer you advice on the content of the documentation.
  • We will actively monitor the application from start to finish, allowing us to respond to any comments from consultees and provide you with timely and commercially astute advice.

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