The Government recently announced a scheme to allow for the conversion of office space to residential use as permitted development, bypassing the need for planning permission. Last week it published a list of exemptions to this scheme which includes much of central London.
Potentially lucrative development areas – such as the City of London, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Islington, Hackney, Wandsworth and Camden – have all been affected by the exemptions. The exclusion maps can be viewed here.
Overall, the interesting aspects of the scheme are in the fine detail. In planning terms, offices are the same as light industry and research & development, and no permission is needed to move between them, but only offices are gaining the right to change to residential. That could lead to negative consequences for industry and research & development, which could be squeezed out as office stock is lost and office occupiers look to new space they can take without planning.
The Government has not addressed many of the criticisms of the scheme including issues about consequential external works and the lack of any ability for the council to secure affordable housing as part of the scheme. They have included mechanisms for prior approval of transport, noise, contamination and flooding issues. Schemes that push the boundaries of this right may come forward very quickly.