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Office conversions cost communities thousands of affordable homes in four years

Words: Laura Edgar
Affordable housing / Shutterstock_519502300

Research by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests that communities have potentially lost out on 13,500 affordable homes in the past four years as a result of permitted development rules.

Office conversions carried out under rules that mean they can be converted into housing without being subject to a planning application amount to almost half of all new housing in some areas of the country, says the LGA.

Concerns have been raised by many organisations as well as the LGA that this means communities don't have the opportunity to ensure that the developments are of a high-quality, provide affordable homes as part of the development, or guarantee that supporting infrastructure such as health services are in place.

Councils are also worried about the safety of housing converted under permitted development, as well as the location of new homes.

The LGA highlighted the government's latest figures, which show that since 2015, there were 54,162 new homes converted from offices under permitted development in England. They estimate that this has potentially led to the loss of 13,540 affordable homes.

Nationally, this is 6 per cent of all new homes, but in some areas the figure is much higher. In 2018/19 this included:

  • Harlow - 51 per cent
  • Norwich - 48 per cent
  • Three Rivers - 43 per cent
  • Spelthorne – 39 per cent
  • Slough – 35 per cent

David Renard, housing spokesman for the LGA, said: “Serious concerns remain over the high numbers of homes which continue to be converted from offices without planning permission.

“Permitted development rules are resulting in the alarming potential loss of thousands of desperately needed affordable homes.

“Planning is not a barrier to housebuilding, with councils approving nine in 10 planning applications. It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process and are able to oversee all local developments.

“By scrapping permitted development rules, the government can give councils and local communities the ability to shape the area they live in and ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place.”

Read more:

Permitted development exacerbating housing affordability issues

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