In a statement of 13 October 2015, the Government announced that the controversial temporary permitted development rights introduced in 2013, which allowed the conversion of offices into new homes, will now be made permanent.

The temporary permitted development rights had been due to expire on 30 May 2016.  All developments that have obtained the requisite prior approval to change use using these permitted development rights will have three years in which to complete the change of use.  At present it is not clear from when the three years will run.

It is proposed that the permitted development rights will be extended to allow the demolition of office buildings and their replacement with new buildings for residential use.  Further permitted development rights will also enable the change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to new homes.  These extended rights will be subject to a prior approval process, with details to follow.

The exempt areas which currently do not have these permitted development rights will remain exempt but on a temporary basis, with exemptions set to expire in May 2019, providing time for local authorities to make Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights.

Tenants should be aware that these permitted development rights have proved very popular and landlords are keen to make use of them.  Whilst the measures were originally envisaged to allow the easy conversion of vacant or under-used space, landlords are just as likely to be looking at occupied space, where residential values may still mean they could make a quick profit from conversion.  Tenants should therefore consider protecting themselves by including a contractual option to renew in any new lease entered into.