Office conversions costing communities affordable homes

Council leaders have warned that communities have missed out on more than 10,000 desperately-needed affordable homes in the past three years as a result of office conversions.

The Local Government Association claims that current government permitted development rules, which allow offices to be converted into housing without planning permission, are exacerbating the nation’s housing affordability crisis and should therefore be scrapped.

Data shows that a total of 42,130 housing units in England have been converted from offices to flats without having to go through the planning system since 2015. As such, no affordable housing or supporting investment in infrastructure have been included. Nationally, this amounts to seven per cent of new homes nationally, but accounted for 40 per cent of new homes in Islington, Welwyn Hatfield, Mole Valley, Croydon and Derby last year.

The LGA believes that this has led to the potential loss of 10,500 desperately-needed affordable homes in the past three years.

Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, said: “Permitted development rules are taking away the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in, ensures homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place and have resulted in the potential loss of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes.

“The loss of office space is also leaving businesses and start-ups without any premises in which to base themselves. Extending permitted development rules risks exacerbating these problems. Planning is not a barrier to house-building, with councils approving nine in 10 planning applications. It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process. Councils, which are answerable to their residents, must be given back their ability to oversee all local developments to ensure they are good quality and help build prosperous places.”

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