The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that communities are potentially losing out on thousands of affordable houses, due to office buildings being converted into dwellings under Permitted Development.

The LGA argues that office conversions could have potentially resulted in 13,500 fewer affordable homes over the past four years, as Permitted Development allows these buildings to be converted without planning permission. 

The LGA reports that 54,162 new homes have been converted from offices in England since 2015 under Permitted Development, and argues that “Permitted development rules are resulting in the alarming potential loss of thousands of desperately needed affordable homes.”

Because there is no requirement for a developer to enter into planning obligations such as a Section 106 agreement with the local authority when development is conducted under Permitted Development, the local authority can lose out on applying restrictions and provisions for affordable housing.

The formal planning application process, in contrast, enables local authorities to impose obligations upon developers to make developments more acceptable in planning terms.

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors: “In the case of the first category of planning obligations under Section 106, the impact of PD is a significant reduction in affordable housing contributions.”

The LGA attests that Permitted Development means communities cannot ensure high quality standards are met, and fails to ensure that infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services are supported by the development.

Defending Permitted Development

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has rejected criticism of Permitted Development and defended its record of helping to deliver homes in the UK. 

Jenrick, answering questions in parliament this week, insisted that Permitted Development schemes had led to the creation of homes that otherwise would not have existed.

“Those rights have led to a large number of net additions that would not otherwise have been brought forward,” he said.

“Last year, we delivered more homes than any other [government] for 30 years. Therefore, the planning reforms taken forward by my predecessors […] have contributed to getting the homes built in this country that we desperately need.”

Jenrick added the he had received the final report from the Building Better, Beautiful Commission — set up by his predecessor James Brokenshire — and will review the recommendations before responding in due course. 

“The recommendations of the commission, that we will publish shortly, speak to all forms of housing, including co-operative housing and social housing, where, of course, there have been some fantastic examples of good-quality design.”

LGA president Alan Jones insists that changes need to be made immediately. He said: “Permitted Development rights give developers the green light to cut corners and sidestep standards put in place to ensure people can live healthy lives. The government must scrap this policy as a matter of urgency.”

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