England: Over 18,000 affordable houses lost in office-to-residential conversions

England: Over 18,000 affordable houses lost in office-to-residential conversions

More than 18,000 affordable houses have been lost as a result of office-to-residential conversions under permitted development in England, the Local Government Association warned today.

A total of 73,575 new houses have been converted from offices under permitted development rights, where full planning permission is not required, since 2015.

The LGA, which represents 350 councils in England and Wales, said that permitted development rights should be removed to ensure all conversions and new developments contribute to the delivery of desperately needed affordable homes across the country.

It also says that developments that go through the planning system are subject to more stringent quality assurance, subsequently improving the overall quality of housing on offer, a key priority in the Levelling Up White Paper.

Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils will continue to play a key role in helping the nation to level up and recover from the pandemic, and that includes meeting our joint ambition with government to tackle the housing shortage and build the homes we desperately need.

“There is a need for more affordable housing across the country but regrettably premises such as offices, agricultural buildings, shops, restaurants and light industry can now be converted into houses without the need to provide any affordable homes.

“This is why we would like to see the permitted development rights removed. Giving planning powers back to councils will also support local ambitions to revive and reimagine high streets and town centres. The upcoming Queen’s Speech should also give councils further powers to bring vacant properties back into use.

“A local, plan-led system is crucial in delivering on levelling up ambitions to ensure councils can deliver the right types of homes in the right places with appropriate infrastructure, ensuring a mix of high-quality affordable housing that meets the needs of local communities, while also giving those communities the opportunity to shape and define the area they live in.”

Cllr Phil King, District Councils’ Network Better Lives spokesperson, said: “District councils are working tirelessly to protect and support their local high streets as they recover from the pandemic. Districts are investing more than £1.3bn of Government renewal funding and attracting investment from the private sector. Permitted development undermines this effort by allowing precious local business and retail space to be lost unchecked.

“Without adequate planning checks from councils, it’s all too easy for housing created through permitted development to be substandard and out of kilter with wider regeneration and place shaping. It denies local communities a say in development and gives developers a way out of providing vital local infrastructure and affordable homes.

“District councils play a vital role in delivering the right homes for local residents, including affordable homes for those who need them the most. Permitted development rights should end. Instead, the Government should focus on giving councils greater powers to end the scourge of long-term vacant commercial units on our high streets and to invest in the reinvention of our town centres.”

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