Levitt Bernstein’s Julia Park has petitioned the government to debate the impact of controversial rules allowing offices to be converted into homes without planning permission
Her petition (full text below) argues that, in bypassing national and local policy and standards, many homes developed under permitted development rights (PDR) lack space and daylight, ‘raising urgent questions about their fitness for human habitation’.
The government will respond to the petition if it attracts 10,000 supporters. If it reaches 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.
The right allowing change of use from office-to-residential accommodation without planning permission was initially introduced in 2013 on a three-year trial, but was made permanent in 2016.
In January this year, the then housing minister, Kit Malthouse, revealed that more than 42,000 homes were delivered under the right in the three years to March 2018.
But in April, Labour pledged to scrap PDR, with shadow housing minister John Healey claiming the rules allowed developers to dodge affordable housing requirements and build ’slum housing’. He said many homes did not meet space standards and were ‘rabbit hutch’ flats.
Last year, a damning RICS report documented how office-to-residential conversions were resulting in ‘extremely poor-quality’ housing, with only 30 per cent of units meeting national space standards.
To coincide with the petition, Levitt Bernstein has updated its report, initially published in February, on why the government should end PDR.
It suggests that conversion of offices into housing should only involve buildings that are ‘genuinely redundant’ and ‘have the potential to become good places to live’.
Space and light continue to be squeezed out
The report, which includes case studies, states that ‘quality seems to be worsening as the more promising opportunities become scarcer. Space and light (ironically the two attributes within the home rated most highly by the public) continue to be squeezed out.’
An MHCLG spokesperson said: ’Permitted development rights (PDRs) allowing the conversion of buildings to residential property was made permanent in 2016 and in the last three years it has delivered 42,000 new homes.
’We have said we will review PDRs for conversion of buildings to residential use in respect of the quality standard of homes delivered.’
Permitted development rights allow developers to convert office buildings to housing without planning permission. Bypassing national and local policy and standards, many of these new homes lack space and daylight, raising urgent questions about their fitness for human habitation.
The Government has promised not to sacrifice quality for quantity but these conversions have resulted in the smallest new housing built with permission in this country. Professional bodies and the press have exposed flats of 13m² and others without external windows, often in wholly unsuitable locations such as industrial parks and alongside major roads. Residents include vulnerable people and families, whose mental and physical health is at risk. It has become a matter of huge public concern.