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Consultants accuse UK govt of backtrack over office to homes plans

To help relieve the severe shortage of new residential development in the country, the government announces it would allow owners of offices to convert their buildings into residential accommodation without the need for further planning consents.

It was said that as many as 25,000 new homes could be created by converting redundant office blocks.
However, since this announcement, councils have lobbied to have the plans downgraded from secondary legislation which would have forced them to comply.

The proposals will now only form part of the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework, essentially putting the proposals for the creation of housing firmly on the back burner, according to Cluttons.

In London, Cluttons’ data shows that although 82% of proposed conversions from office to residential received planning consent between 2001 and 2010, many London boroughs through their Local Development Frameworks have now put a stop to these conversions.

‘Caving in to councils and their lobbyists will cause a serious dent to much needed extra housing. Plans to bring redundant buildings back into alternative use will now be thwarted and we hear that the proposed relaxation of regulations will form part of the evolving planning policy framework. Councils can simply turn a blind eye,’ said Malcolm Chumbley, head of UK development at Cluttons.

He pointed out that Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said at the time that ‘it is in everyone’s interests to make it easier to turn run down old eyesores into much needed new homes’.

‘The government should not back track. It is simply not good enough. Cluttons will be writing to the Secretary of State once again urging him to bring forward legislation at the first opportunity. In many parts of the country, the need for residential property severely outweighs requirements for offices. This situation needs to be acknowledged. The government is missing a trick here,’ added Chumbley.