The Government has revealed more details on the new rights allowing the conversion of offices to housing without planning permission. These new rights will only apply in England and will come into force at the beginning of April. They only allow the change of use of the property – any related physical changes will still require planning permission.

Adam Pyrke, Head of London Planning at Colliers International, stated: “This new freedom is exempt from affordable housing requirements which is a significant benefit to marginally viable schemes. The emphasis is clearly on creating new homes of any sort and stimulating the construction industry. The Community Infrastructure Levy will continue to apply where the local planning authority has one in place.”

These conversions will be subject to a prior approval process – probably of about 42 days – which will allow local planning authorities to consider whether or not to require a formal planning application. Councils can only do so on the grounds the change would have a significant transport impact; or where the property is located in an area of high flood risk, a safety hazard zone, or land contamination.

These new rights will only last for three years. At the end of that period the Government will review its success and the freedom maybe extinguished, extended for a further limited period or even indefinitely.

Councils can request that these rights do not apply to a part of their area but such an exemption will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. The Council’s will need to demonstrate that the loss of office space would lead to the loss of a nationally significant area of economic activity or would lead to substantial adverse economic consequences which would not be offset by the additional housing created.