In a Statement issued on the 13th October, the Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis,  provided some much needed clarity regarding office to residential permitted development (“PD”) rights.

At present the PD right enables:

Development consisting of a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use falling within Class B1(a) (offices) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order, to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule.”

The PD right is temporary and the residential use has to have “begun” by 30 May 2016.  Before beginning the development, the developer has to apply to the LPA for a determination as to whether prior approval of the authority is required in relation to three areas:

  1. transport and highway impacts of the development;
  2. contamination risks on the site; and
  3. flooding risks on the site.

The temporary PD right has proved to be controversial with a number of authorities bringing in Article 4 directions to prevent its use.  In addition, the temporary nature of the PD right has caused uncertainties amongst those in the development industry and their funders.

The Prime Minister  made a speech on the 12th October in relation to the Government’s housing policy and in advance of the publication of the Housing and Planning Bill.  He stated that the temporary PD right introduced in May 2013 was to be made permanent and noted that almost 4,000 conversions had been given the go-ahead between April 2014 and June 2015.

No details have been published yet but the Planning Minister’s statement of 13 October notes that whilst the existing PD rights are to be made permanent, those who already have secured prior approval will have three years in which to complete the change of use.

In future it is proposed that the permitted development rights will be considerably widened to also allow for demolition of office buildings and the building of new residential development. The current PD rights only enable a change of use and any external works had to be the subject of an application for planning permission. It remains to be seen what restrictions and conditions will be imposed in relation to this much broader PD right.

17 local authorities in England have areas which are presently exempt from the office to residential permitted development right.  Those areas will have until May 2019 to make an Article 4 direction if they wish to continue determining planning applications for the change of use, otherwise the PD right will come into force in those areas.

New permitted development rights will also be brought in to enable a change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to homes.

All the proposed new PD rights will be subject to limitations and prior approval by the relevant Local Planning Authority.  We await sight of the details of the new permitted development rights and will blog further about those details.

The office to residential PD right has proved to be highly controversial.  Whether you are opposed to, or supportive of, office to residential PD rights the latest announcements at least provide some degree of clarity with more to follow when full details are published.