“Promoting regeneration” – the sub-heading to DCLG’s announcement at the end of last week on the well-trailed new permitted development rights which are to be introduced.  The most prominent amongst the changes will be the change of use from offices (B1(a)) to residential (C3).  The Government’s hope is that by making it easier for developers to convert redundant offices more homes will be provided, more quickly, in urban areas. 

Transport and highways impacts, flood assessments, land contamination and safety hazard zones will still need to be addressed in a “tightly drawn” prior approval process.  It is unclear how other matters usually dealt with alongside planning consent – CIL, planning obligations, notably affordable housing - will be covered for such office-to residential conversions.  Operational development to facilitate the conversion of a building will still require planning consent.

The regulations for these changes to the permitted development rights will be brought forward only after local authorities have had the opportunity to request exceptions to their application, where economic grounds justify, to take account of “unique local circumstances”.  Once introduced, the changes will initially apply for 3 years, prior to review.

The announcement also covers changes in development control for agricultural buildings to be converted, but not to residential use, to promote rural prosperity and job-creation, and for change of use for a “range of buildings” to converted to shops, professional services uses, restaurants and offices, to encourage revitalisation of high streets.