On 12 October 2015, the government announced that the office to residential permitted development right in Class O of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015/596) will become permanent.
The new office to residential permitted development right has been announced ahead of the publication of the Housing and Planning Bill, as a means of supporting the government’s drive to deliver one million homes by 2020.
First introduced in 2013, temporary permitted development rights have enabled offices to be converted to new homes without the need to apply for planning permission. It has meant that between April 2014 and June this year, almost 4,000 conversions were given the green light. The permanent right will provide certainty for developers looking to convert offices into homes.
Those who have already secured prior approval for residential use under the existing permitted development rights will now have three years to complete the change of use.
It is important to stress that although this is a “permitted development” the right is still conditional on the applicant making a prior approval application to the local planning authority. For example, the right to allow the demolition of offices and the erection of new build properties for residential use may be subject to limitations relating to noise, hours, odours, and so forth.
It is important to note that there are exempt commercial areas in 17 local authorities in England, including:
- The City of London
- The London Central Activities Zone, which covers parts of the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington and Chelsea
- Areas in the borough councils of Stevenage, and Ashford (Kent)
- Areas in the district councils of Sevenoaks and East Hampshire
These exemptions will remain in place until May 2019 and if the 17 local authorities want to continue to require a planning application for a change of use from offices to residential, they must make an Article 4 direction before May 2019.
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