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Permitted change of use from offices to residential




Change of use

From 30th May 2013 new permitted development rights were introduced, including the right to change of use from offices B1(a) to residential dwelling (C3). This controversial new right does not apply throughout England and Wales as some areas, such as the City of London, have been specifically excluded.

There are a number of exclusions from this new permitted development right. Conversion is not permitted where:
  • The building was not used as B1(a) immediately before 30th May 2013 or, if the building was not in use immediately before that date, when it was last in use; 
  • The site forms part of a safety hazard area; 
  • The site forms part of a military explosives storage area; or 
  • The building is a listed building or a scheduled monument. 
The new right will be subject to what has been called a 'prior approval' by the local planning authority (LPA). A developer will need to apply for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the LPA will be required as a consequence of:
  • Transport and highways impacts of the development; 
  • Contamination risks on the site; and 
  • Flooding risks on the site. 
The application to the LPA should include a written description of the proposed development, a plan indicating the site and showing the proposed development, the developer’s contact details and any fee. The LPA can also require the developer to submit information regarding the above factors.

Development may only commence if:
  • The LPA state that prior approval is not required; 
  • The LPA give their prior approval; or 
  • 56 days have elapsed after the LPA first received the application and they have not notified the applicant as to whether prior approval is given or refused. 
As already noted, this change will not apply to areas in 17 local authorities. These include areas in the City of London and the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington and Chelsea. Other excluded areas are in the borough councils of Vale of the White Horse, Stevenage, Ashford (Kent), the district councils of Sevenoaks and East Hampshire, and Manchester City Council. It remains to be seen how other authorities seek to prevent use of these rights either by abusing the prior approval process or through seeking to remove the rights by making what are known as Article 4 directions.
The new right is temporary and the right to take it up will expire on 30 May 2016. This does not affect buildings that have already converted under the rights.

The Paramount Opinion
The new permitted change of use is a welcome addition for developers looking to maximise capital value on office buildings (B1). For what feels like a constant battle between developers and local planners, this temporary permitted use will be utilised by many and seen as a sign of relief to individuals holding on to empty office space. I believe that the introduction of new permitted development rights will however come with its issues. This is due to the lack of detail stated by the planners, such as ‘do the permitted rights include new build office units which have been left vacant since construction?’ It will take some time before these initial teething problems can be ironed out, but I feel this is certainly a step in the right direction for the development industry.

Guest post written by John Bosworth
Partner Ashfords LLP
j.bosworth@ashfords.co.uk



Property of the month

Warehouse for sale in Forest Gate, London E7

A detached, freehold warehouse is for sale moments from the popular open spaces of Wanstead Flats.

The property is a two storey building with basement and has a garage to the side of the building. On street parking is available.

Talbot Road is close to an excellent range of shopping and transport facilities around Woodgrange Road, including Wanstead Park Railway Station and Forest Gate B.R. Stations.

This is an excellent development opportunity. Subject to gaining the appropriate planning consents.

Click here to view the full property listing



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