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Property investors could profit from government plans to encourage development of empty offices in to new housing.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced proposals to remove planning restrictions to stimulate the developments – and the move is a good fit with councils seeking to dilute concentrations of shared houses in residential areas.
Councils and house in multiple occupation (HMO) developers have clashed over planning restrictions in around 25 towns and cities.
Now, Pickles has published a consultation paper that proposes to scrap the planning approval requirement for changing use from a commercial property to a residential property, which can be costly and time consuming.
The Communities and Local Government Department says if all the long-term empty office space currently available was converted to homes, the strategy could deliver up to 250,000 new homes and save just under £140 million over 10 years in unnecessary administration costs.
“Many towns and cities have office blocks, warehouse and business parks needlessly lying empty, while house building has fallen to the lowest in peace time history because the planning system has tied developers up in knots of red tape,” said Pickles.
“By unshackling developers from a legacy of bureaucratic planning we can help them turn thousands of vacant commercial properties into enough new homes to jump start housing supply and help get the economy back on track. Councils already have powers to give greater local planning discretion and they should us them more to promote growth.”
The consultation seeks views on a proposal to amend the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 to grant permitted development rights for change of use from class B1 (Business), B2 (General Industry) and B8 (Storage and distribution) to class C3 (Dwelling houses) without the need for planning applications.
Consultation will run until June 30, 2011.
Decentralisation and Planning Minister Greg Clark said: “Patterns of office use have changed as employers prefer large open plan spaces to individual offices and more people work from home. That has meant many offices have been vacant for years.
“This change will make it easy to turn redundant offices into much needed homes. This will replace derelict properties with buildings in good use, contribute to relieving Britain’s housing shortage and give a valuable boost to the building industry.”
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