Developers avoid planning system leading to affordable homes losses

A study carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) has discovered that there has been a potential loss of more than 7,500 affordable homes due to developers avoiding the planning system when converting offices into flats. Since 2015, more than 30,000 housing units have been built in office buildings without requiring planning.

Permitted development rules currently cover office to residential conversions and state that developers are not required to invest in local infrastructure or pay for affordable homes. While this does have the upside of speeding up new development, it also means that many homes are failing to meet basic minimum size standards. One such development in Barnet, London was described as having homes that were 40% smaller than the average Travelodge room. Nevertheless, these are deemed legal due to the relaxing of these planning rules.

Since 2013 more than half of all new homes built in Nottingham, Basildon, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hounslow and Harlow were found to be of this type. In Stevenage, the figure was 73%. Across England and Wales in general, 8% of all developments are of this change of use type and councils are warning that office space could start to disappear, leaving new businesses nowhere to base themselves.

The LGA housing spokesman Martin Tett has stated that permitted development does not allow communities to shape the local area and that planning permission does not necessarily lead to a barrier to housebuilding. He points out that 9 out of 10 planning applications are approved and that councils had a responsibility to ensure that new housing was of good quality.

Meanwhile, the Department for Housing Communities and Local Government point out that the UK needs a mix of dwelling types and the policy of allowing this type of permitted development had led to 17,500 additional properties in the year to March 2017.