Over 13,500 affordable homes lost through office conversions

Last Updated on

Communities have potentially lost out on more than 13,500 desperately-needed affordable homes in the past four years as a result of rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission, new analysis by the Local Government Association has revealed.

In some parts of the country, office conversions carried out under the permitted development right – which allows homes to be created without going through the planning system – amount to almost half of all new housing.

This means communities have no way to ensure developers meet high quality standards, provide any affordable homes as part of the development or ensure supporting infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services are in place. As a result, councils have serious concerns about the quality, design and safety of housing converted under permitted development, as well as the location of new homes.

The LGA said councils want to work with the Government to tackle the housing shortage and ensure new housing meets the needs of communities. As part of this, it is calling on permitted development rules to be scrapped and local communities to be allowed to have a vital say on new developments in their area.

Latest figures show that since 2015, there were 54,162 new homes converted from offices under permitted development in England.

The LGA estimates this has potentially led to the loss of 13,540 affordable homes.

While the total conversions amount to 6 per cent of all new homes nationally, in some areas a significantly high proportion of new housing is office-to-residential conversions.

Last year (2018/19), more than half (51 per cent) of all new homes in Harlow were office conversions, with 48 per cent in Norwich and 43 per cent in Three Rivers.

Over a third of new housing in Spelthorne (39 per cent) and Slough (35 per cent) were also converted from offices.

Commenting on the press release, Cllr Howard Sykes, LGA Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said:

“Serious concerns remain over the high numbers of homes which continue to be converted from offices without planning permission.

“Permitted development rules are resulting in the alarming potential loss of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes.

“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 and are able to oversee all local developments.

“By scrapping permitted development rules, the Government can give councils and local communities the ability to shape the area they live in and ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place.”

Notes to editors

  • Calculation of affordable housing is based on an indicative council affordable housing requirement of 25 per cent on new housing developments
    Latest figures on permitted development conversions
  • Housing advisers programme: The LGA’s sector-led improvement offers robust peer challenge and support to help councils improve performance, become more efficient and effective and share good practice. As part of that offer, we provide a Housing Advisers Programme which is designed to support councils seeking to innovate in meeting the housing needs of their communities. In the previous two years of the Housing Advisers Programme, we have funded over 100 councils to help councils build homes, reduce homelessness, plan for population ageing, understand the student housing market, increase supply of modular housing, and more.