Office to residential indecision hurting industry

A significant proportion of work in the housing sector has ground to a halt thanks to Government indecision over rules for the conversion of office buildings to residential units.

Since 2013 developers have been permitted development rights to convert empty office blocks to residential properties without having to apply to local planning authorities for full permission.

However, this temporary measure introduced by the Coalition government stipulated that all conversions must be complete and occupied by May 2016.

Ashby Design director Simon Hansard, whose company supplies architectural services to major housebuilders, says:

“In South East England permitted development rights have provided a sizeable chunk of work for the housing supply chain over the past couple of years.

“However, with the legislation requiring premises to be occupied by May next year and there no announcement from the government what will happen after May, all of this work has now dried up.”

Despite lobbying by the construction industry, the government has failed to announce what will happen to the scheme beyond next May, meaning that no further work on such conversions is taking place due to the difficulty of having properties occupied by next year’s deadline.

According to reports, the Government had been considering introducing an extension or even making permitted development rights a permanent measure prior to Parliament’s summer recess.

However, opponents to the measures claim they successfully lobbied the government to delay its decision until later in the year.

Hansard added:

“Considering the need for all levels of housing in this country, be it private, affordable or social, and the fact we have a lot of offices standing empty, it’s surprising that the government hasn’t addressed this one way or another.”