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10th May 2013

New rules for change of use from office to residential

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The Government has published legislation to introduce new permitted development rights to enable offices to be converted to homes without the need for planning permission.

Various changes to the list of permitted development rights will come into force in England on 30 May 2013. The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has said that the change “gives a clear signal to owners, developers and local planning authorities that we want underused and outdated offices to be brought back to life, and provides an excellent opportunity to create much needed new homes”.

There are important limitations on the change. For example:

1. It is only temporary. The new right will expire on 30 May 2016.

2. It does not apply in certain areas. The Government has granted 17 local authorities exemptions from the change in certain specified parts of their administrative areas. Several of the authorities are in London, for example the City of London, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Westminster, Hackney and Southwark, and others include the Vale of the White Horse, Stevenage, East Hampshire and Manchester. Certain military sites and safety hazard areas are also excluded. Whether or not a local authority has obtained an exemption also does not alter the general power local authorities have to make an Article 4 Direction to remove permitted development rights for all or any development in their area where they consider it expedient to do so.

3. It does not apply to listed buildings or scheduled monuments.

4. The right is not automatic but subject to a requirement to apply to the local authority for a determination as to whether their prior approval will be required as to transport and highways, flooding and contamination. The prior approval process is set out in the new legislation and requires the local authority to consider certain consultation responses and the National Planning Policy Framework, but notably not local planning policy.

5. Even if permission is not required for the use change, planning or other consents may be needed for related works to the property.

Subject to these caveats, clearly these new permitted development rights will offer greater flexibility for investors and developers. In addition, they will enable change of use to occur without the need for Section 106 obligations. In particular, there will be no obligation to provide an element of affordable housing, or contributions towards social and community infrastructure. In addition, CIL will generally only be chargeable if the building has been vacant for more than 6 months in the 12 months before the change of use. Accordingly, conversion schemes under these provisions are likely to attract a greater development value compared with other residential developments of comparable size.

Other new permitted development rights include allowing change of use of certain agricultural buildings to various other uses (but not to use as dwellings) and temporary change from a range of uses to retail, financial and professional service, restaurant and café or office use for up to 2 years.

For more information, please contact Gemma Dudley on 01223 461155 or click here to email Gemma.