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New regulations set to boost office to residential conversions

Changes to regulations look set to boost the number of office properties being converted into residential developments.

What was the previous situation?

In May 2013 permitted development rights were introduced allowing the change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from an office (within Class B1(a)) to a house (within Class C3).

The rights were subject to a number of criteria being met and to the condition that before beginning the development, the developer had to apply to the local planning authority to see whether prior approval of the authority would be required on the transport and highways impact of the development, contamination risks and flooding risks on the site.

Developers also had to ensure that the residential use was started before 30 May 2016, effectively giving only a temporary right.

How has this changed?

In Regulations that came into force on 6 April 2016, the requirement that residential use be begun before 30 May 2016 has been removed, thereby making this permitted development right permanent.

Local planning authorities must still decide whether prior approval is needed on the various impacts and risks of the development as detailed above. In addition, they must now also take into account the impact of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the residential development.

It is also a condition of the rights that development must be completed within three years of the prior approval being granted by the local planning authority. This is aimed at boosting the supply of homes.

What else has changed?

The regulations also remove the exemption of certain areas from the permitted development right with effect from 31 May 2019.

Those exempted areas, which include parts of Manchester city centre and central London, will need to seek a Direction before that date if they want to keep the restrictions on permitted development in place.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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