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Government launches consultation on office-to-residential conversions

The government has launched a consultation on its plan to scrap the planning requirement to convert disused offices into homes

Unveiled in the budget, the reform is part of a bid to boost the supply of housing and stimulate the construction industry.

The lack of land and buildings available for residential development or conversion is ‘the major barrier’ to house building in the UK, claimed communities secretary Eric Pickles.

His department estimated that the number of vacant commercial properties is between 7 and 9 per cent, which the Government says suggests there is an oversupply of commercial land.

Up to 250,000 new homes could be built if all the long-term office space currently available was converted, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The policy was also save £140 million in bureaucratic costs.

Pickles said: ‘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.’

Decentralisation and planning minister Greg Clark added: ‘Patterns of office use have changed as employers prefer large open plan spaces to individual offices and as more and more people work from home. That has meant that there are many offices that 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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