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Changing offices to flats

15/10/2013

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United Kingdom

On 30 May 2013, the Town and Country Order 2013 came into force and increased the types of changes of use that can take place without obtaining planning permission.

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First appeared in Informer: Real Estate Newsletter - Autumn 2013

On 30 May 2013, the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013 came into force and increased the types of changes of use that can take place without obtaining planning permission.  The changes are intended to reduce the burden on the planning system and to encourage economic growth.  However, planning permission will still be required for any external works to a building that are necessary as part of the change of use.

Key features are:

  1. Permitting the change of use for buildings up to 500m2 from B1 (business) or B2 (general industrial) to B8 (storage and distribution).

  2. Permitting the change of use for buildings up to 500m2 from B2 or B8 to B1.

  3. Permitting the change of use of a building from B1(a) (offices) to C3 (dwelling houses) until 2016 subject to various conditions, exclusions and prior approvals.

  4. Encouraging the re-use of existing buildings by:

- permitting a change of use for agricultural buildings to retail, business, storage, hotels or leisure;

- permitting a change of use for free schools; and

- permitting the temporary re-use of existing buildings for retail, restaurants and business for up to 2 years.

Certain areas in particular local authorities are excluded, as are listed buildings and sites in safety hazard areas.

Before a change of use from offices to housing takes place, applicants must apply to the local authority to determine whether prior approval is required in relation to flooding, highways and contamination.  If the local authority decides that the change of use would have no impact in these areas then prior approval is not required and the change can take place.  If prior approval is required, there is a 21 day period during which consultation takes place and further information can be requested from the applicant.  The local authority has to make a decision within 56 days as to whether to approve or reject the application, if no decision is made the change can take place.

The ability to convert offices to housing was meant to address the housing shortage and bring back into use vacant office blocks.  However, it appears that a significant number of applications (particularly in London) for prior approval relate to offices that are currently in use but that would be more valuable as housing.

Claire Brodrick, Associate, Planning and Environmental Group

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