It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is still great demand for housing in London and the UK. An increasingly common solution is to get a Change of Use from Office (B1) to Residential (C3) to make the most of a subdued market for office and retail space and turn it into housing, and this phenomenon is happening up and down the country.
Read our handy guide below and use our proven formula to make a Prior Approval application for your office to residential conversion.
Yes, you can! And you may not need to apply for planning permission for Change of Use from B1 to C3.
Permitted Development Rights (PDR) is a government scheme that allows certain types of change of use to be carried out without applying for planning permission, one of them being from B1 to C3, making the planning process simpler and more straightforward. However, there are certain aspects that still have to be taken into considerations and not every office or retail space can be converted into housing.
This is largely because in the wrong hands, PDR has been used by unscrupulous developers to create micro flats that impact negatively on built environments and communities. The recent Levitt Bernstein report called for the government to end PDRs for B1 to C3, with particular reference to ‘Crowding and Space’ hazards due to lack of sufficient space, light and ventilation evident in poor quality housing.
This doesn’t mean that these rights will now be withdrawn, but we strongly recommend using our expertise to employ the most ethical approach to develop high quality homes that are beneficial for all concerned.
Before you commence carrying out the works for converting your office units into residential units, you need to make a Prior Approval application. Your application should include full set of drawings and supporting documents relating to the transport and highway impacts, contamination risks, flood risks and noise.
If your property complies with the Prior Approval mechanism, your council will not apply any other planning policies in determining the Prior Approval application. All you will need to do is to use a proven formulate to convert offices into homes.
I am sure that you will work with successful architects and planning consultants so you can make the most of this opportunity! Your planning consultant can help you design your development, prepare your drawings and submit and manage your Prior Approval application.
Little changes in design are what a property needs to boost value.
Once we submit your Prior Approval application to the council, they then have 56 days to make a decision. Once you get approval, you’ll be ready to start work on your conversion development and maximise your investment!
With Housing and Planning Minister Kit Malthouse’s proposal to extend PDRs covering housing on high streets and upward extensions, it’s important to explain and provide our professional opinion on the matter:
We agree with the Royal Town Planning Institute that poor use of PDRs generally delivers low-quality, unprepossessing housing in awkward locations. We encourage developers to get involved and ensure their projects provide high-quality accommodation that meets existing Permitted Development guidelines in terms of space standards and integration into the existing urban fabric.
As Julia Park, outgoing chair of the RIBA Housing Group and one of the authors of Levitt Bernstein’s report, states in her guest blog post for Shelter, ‘proposals just need to be subject to the normal, democratic, planning process. Good conversions will be approved and bad ones will be rejected.’
At the Conservative Party Conference in October 2019, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the government is looking at allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and rebuilt as homes through the relatively new Planning in Principle (PiP) route. Such schemes would then need to apply for Technical Details Consent, which would give planners more scope to block unacceptable applications. The PiP proposal is expected to feature alongside future reforms to PDR that the government has been considering.
It’s worth noting too that office-to-residential developments aren’t well-suited to town and city centres, we’ve seen similar projects create blank façades that strip high streets of their vitality and exacerbate existing problems. This is the rationale behind councils in London issuing Article 4 Directions.
Article 4 Directions happen at a local level and reserved the council’s right to reject PDR and Prior Approval applications, particularly in places with a designated purpose – for example conservation areas, tech clusters or employment centres.
This means that you’ll definitely need to apply for planning permission to convert your offices into houses or flats in those instances and it’s essential to check with your architectural team and council if Article 4 applies to your site before launching your project.
All the above factors must be taken in consideration and our expertise will make your Prior Approval process simpler, easier and quicker.
As architects and planning consultants with extensive experience in conversion of offices into flats, we’ll help achieve the maximum number of units. We will help you with the preparation of full set of drawings and supporting documents relating to the transport and highway impacts, contamination risks, flood risks and noise of your development, and manage your Prior Approval application throughout the process.
Get in touch with us today to see how you can join hundreds of developers who’ve successfully achieved these conversion projects. We’ll guide you every step of the way through your B1 – C3 Change of Use journey.