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Office-to-resi conversions producing ‘poor-quality housing’, report warns

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Extending the government’s policy of allowing office to residential conversions without full planning permission could result in more ‘poor quality housing’, surveyors have warned

Research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has suggested that only 30 per cent of units delivered through permitted development rights (PDR) meet national space standards.

The government has continued to loosen rules surrounding conversions in a bid to speed up the planning process, bringing in a series of policy changes since 2005.

The most recent changes include the proposed relaxing of rules on rooftop extensions and extension of PDR for barn-to-residential conversions.

But the RICS report, co-authored with academics from UCL and Sheffield University, has warned that office-to-residential schemes completed under PDR were producing a higher number of poor quality housing than those completed with full planning permission. 

As part of its research, RICS visited 568 buildings in areas where PDR schemes are popular, such as Camden, Croydon, Leeds, Leicester and Reading.

It found that there was ’inconsistency in the quality’ with examples that had no amenity space, low-quality design and were poor locations for residential amenity. 

In Glasgow, where the conversions require full planning permission, the report found higher quality residential schemes maintained with better space standards.

The report also found that as schemes were not making Section 106 contributions, local authorities were subject to further losses of £4.1 million due to reduced planning fees and a potential loss of £10.8 million (as well as 1,667 affordable housing units). 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • If Urban Splash is still in the running to reconfigure the former Plymouth City Council offices at the Civic Centre (illustrated) then there's surely no risk of this particular development being of poor quality.

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