Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has confirmed today that planning permission will not be required for converting unused office space into homes.Mr Pickles wants the previously developed land to be "swiftly converted" for residential use.

The property industry has welcomed these plans to introduce new permitted development rights to convert offices to homes without planning permission after the Secretary of State's announcement that proposals to ease the planning rules would go ahead following consultation last year.

The British Property Federation said the move towards greater flexibility, long-supported by landlords, would boost housing supply and bring vacant property back in to use.

Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the British Property Federation, said: “Given our acute shortage of homes this is an extremely welcome step.

Office to residential conversions won’t work for all buildings, or in every area, but any trip through our suburbs soon exposes redundant office space that with the best will in the world is never going to be brought back into commercial use.

Such conversions will be good for those seeking homes, the wider community and local authorities, who will gain from the New Homes Bonus and council tax receipts that occupation generates.

However, will need to see further detail on how 'local exceptions' schemes will work. Any exemptions should be few and far between, and this aspect will need to be tightly drawn and policed if it is not to undermine the overall policy objective.”

Eric Pickles

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These new rules, to be in force for three years, cover the change of use from B1(a) offices to C3 residential (single family as opposed to home of multiple occupation) use. Local councils will only be able to gain an exemption from this if they can show it would lead to "the loss of a nationally significant area of economic activity" or "substantial adverse economic consequences".

Further to this, in order to promote job creation and prosperity in rural areas, agricultural buildings will be able to be converted for other purposes excluding residential.

What we need to see is enough houses being built that it forces the overall average house price down making them truly affordable, not more overpriced units flogged off on a half buy half rent basis just to keep house prices artificially high.

Image By: Uploaded to Flickr by The Health Hotel. [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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