Raviv Dozetas :Office to residential conversion

Another unique response by the government to the housing criss was the announcement in 2013 that commercial office space did not require planning rights/consents(“Government Makes Office-To-Resi Changes Permanent”).this resulted in two major advantages for the uk, firstly unused and vacant commercial buildings that were largely in excess supply ,with many vacant in disrepair and costing landlords dearly in rates could now be used in residential schemes, large expansive floor plates typical of office buildings could be quite easily subdivided to provide residential accommodation.

With the downturn of the economy in the wake of the 2008 crash, many office schemes that were banking on immediate take up were on the verge of going broke, thanks to 10 years of soaring property prices, suddenly found themselves with cancelled contracts and no prospects of tenants, with businesses down scaling and increased completion from easy term office space, and an increasingly mobile, contract based workforce, further made office space even less desirable.

The results were quite successful from with thousands of units converted in office parks from all types of construction and layouts, from 1950’s concrete office buildings, office parks and mills amongst others, all being cleverly adapted to suite their new residential roles.

Thus it must be said the UK government responded in this fashion with a kill two birds with one stone solution.A brief analysis of the numbers involved does suggest a significant number of households were added to the annual production.


4000 conversions were approved in a 12 month period May 2013-June 2014.Obviously there were many 10s of units in and amount these applications, so the real number could be possibly over 50 000 actual individual units.(“Government Makes Office-To-Resi Changes Permanent”)

Permitted development rights

Permitted development rights were another well thought, well timed response from the Government, and in response to the Barker review and the Montague review are seen as the government’s response to the two reports findings namely housing shortage problems.

Permitted development rights mean one can perform certain types of conversion or building works to property without having to apply for planning permission,as long as the proposed works fit certain criteria, these are called ‘’permitted development rights’’

They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament.

It is noted that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings.

Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings. In some areas of the country, known generally as ‘designated areas’, permitted development rights are more restricted. For example, in a Conservation Area, a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads. There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.(Portal),these are generally set out in the Town and Country Planning Portal (General Permitted Development)Order 1995.

These streamlining modifications to the UK planning laws must be viewed as allowing homes to be extended and enlarged generally resulting in bigger more valuable homes, thus allowing families to grow without the need to sell and re-enter the housing market, allowing eco-friendly and efficient use of existing space e.g. basements ,lofts and side and back gardens garages etc.

An integral part of the national macro housing policy by as these permitted developments also reduces the paperwork and man power that councils are tied up with, allowing the planning departments more time to focus on macro housing projects.

This resulted in the stimulation of the building industry allowing more small scale builders greater employment opportunities, and additionally fostering affiliated industries such as raw materials, supply chain efficiencies.

Positive consequences of the above move is that a general focus on larger and more important planning decisions can be undertaken, the above relatively minor tasks such as house extensions, and office conversions are to be seen as minor in comparison to a new development of housing on a new parcel of Greenland, or a new high rise tower with hundreds of units. Thus the available planning departments, and authorities can focus and dedicate their resources to the macro house production goals.

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