Parish and town councils have long expressed their concerns over the automatic granting of planning permission for new homes using permitted development rights. The sharp increase in the conversion of offices in some areas is having a marked effect on essential local infrastructure – schools, roads and health services and is being felt through every tier of local government.
The Local Government Association (LGA) reports that since 2015 there were 54,162 new homes converted from offices under permitted development rights. The LGA estimates that this has led to a loss in excess of 13,500 affordable homes.
Figures quoted for the last year appear to confirm this trend with some areas showing a high percentage of office-to-residential conversions. 51% of all new homes in Harlow were office conversions with 48% in Norwich and 43% in Three Rivers. Spelthorne were at 39% and Slough 35%.
LGA Housing Spokesman Cllr. David Renard said ‘Serious concerns remain over the high numbers of homes which continue to be converted from offices without planning permission.’
‘Permitted development rules are resulting in the alarming potential loss of thousands of desperately needed affordable homes. Planning is not a barrier to housebuilding, with councils approving 9 in 10 planning applications. It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process and are able to oversee all local developments’.
The recent government consultation on proposals to reform permitted development rights sought views on ‘whether it is appropriate to impose specific limitations, conditions and restrictions on any amendments to permitted development rights to mitigate the impact of any new development.’ The consultation closed in November last year.
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