Turning Offices into Homes – further relaxations announced

It seems to have been kept fairly quiet, but the Government’s temporary scheme of relaxing the requirements to turn office developments into residential, is to be made permanent.

Not only that, but the relaxation will be further extended by in future allowing demolition of existing office buildings and residential use to replace them without Planning Permission from the Local Planning Authority. At the moment this is only allowed by conversion and not demolition and replacement. There will be some limitations to this right but as yet these seem to be unspecified.

So, despite the rhetoric of wishing to see more Localism, and powers moving from Central to Local Government, this is yet another example of the opposite – the Government is removing the powers of Local Authorities to design and implement plans for their local area which are appropriate for the whole of their area of interest and responsibilities, and their local citizens as a whole.

Central Government is telling us that they want to give more power, responsibility and resources to Local Government, but then does stuff like this – taking away the ability of Local Government to make and implement integrated and holistic plans, based on evidence, of what their area as a whole requires.

One of the reasons why we in the UK have a Town and Country Planning System is to balance the needs (or desires) of the whole community against those of individual land and building owners and users. By coming out with policies such as this Central Government is undermining the whole Planning system – but perhaps that is the idea and intention.

Exactly how this will work in practice hasn’t yet been announced, but this is another worrying development in Government housing policy.

Finally, I must give thanks to the firm of Charles Russell Speechly for making me aware of these developments which come out of the Housing and Planning Bill which was announced in October 2015

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