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Converting former offices could provide short cut to new housing

wantspacegotspace.co.uk - Converting former offices could provide short cut to new housingLandlords and investors have been urged to re-examine their commercial property portfolios with a view to changing redundant office space to residential use.

According to planning expert Marcus Plaw from Colliers International, relaxing the planning regulations presents an attractive opportunity to property developers to bring forward new homes.  

He said: “Whilst the Government’s drive to address some of the housing problems through a relaxation of planning controls have been questioned in terms of their effectiveness and potential impact, converting offices could offer a more direct and immediate response to the housing shortage.”

He welcomed  Government moves making it more attractive for landowners, investors and developers to change commercial office accommodation to residential use.

“Relaxing planning regulations for home extensions might have grabbed more headlines but  similar moves to free up redundant commercial space could help bring forward stalled development sites of vacant premises in cities, towns and villages across the south west.”

Owners of office premises can secure approval for their conversion to residential use through a ‘Prior Approval’ process.  Some local authorities have produced a specific form to make the application and charge a fee though this is not applicable at each local authority so enquiries are necessary.

“Developers should take some comfort in the fact that the process appears to be more streamlined which not only takes away some of the costs normally associated with pursuing the change of use of office premises, but also some of the risks – given that it is an initiative controlled through regulations.”

Marcus Plaw went on:  “Applications will need to be supported by a description of the scheme with drawings.  Furthermore, details on transport and access implications which are generally sensitive development issues will be required and any potential flood risk and contamination will require attention in some circumstances.”

“Whilst changes to the appearance of some buildings might still require planning permission, a sensitive approach to securing new homes could result in some exciting developments coming forward. Developers will also be interested to hear that office to residential projects will not include any requirement for affordable housing. Property owners, investors and developers should review their property portfolios and explore the viability of conversion projects.

“However the change in the use of a premises must have begun by May 2016.”

Posted by The Editor (wantspacegotspace) on 12th August 2013

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