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Converting Offices to Residential

Any gold rush will not be plain sailing - solicitor Alex Ground comments

Plans to convert London's famous Centre Point tower block from office space to luxury residential apartments were recently unveiled and put the spotlight once again onto Government proposals to change planning restrictions for office-to-resi developments. Nick Boles has now also confirmed that it was the government's firm intention to have the new permitted development rights that will allow office conversions (B1(a)) into residential (C3) in effect by the end of May. Owners of office floor space should therefore consider their assets and assess whether a change of use would be appropriate. As will be seen below, some Local Planning Authorities (LPA) may still try and thwart conversion plans but with such disparity in yields in some areas between office and residential, the appeal costs may be worth it.

How long will the Permitted Development Rights be in place for before they are subject to review?
The changes will be in place for an initial period of three years with a review at that point as to whether to extend it indefinitely; whether this will be sufficient comfort though to LPAs concerned about the potential loss of office floorspace remains to be seen.

Will planning permission still be needed for exterior works?
Associated external physical development will still require planning permission although presumably any LPA that tries
to abuse the system by refusing such applications on tenuous grounds will be at risk of costs on appeal. I suspect that many LPAs will refuse such applications, at least initially, and developers will need to be prepared to go to appeal.

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