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Permitted development rules have been criticised for allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission. Arguing that they are exacerbating the nation’s housing affordability crisis, the Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for the rules to be scrapped.

More than 40,000 housing units in England have been converted from offices to flats since 2015, the LGA points out, without having to go through the planning system.

Not only did those developments include no affordable housing, but they provided no support for local infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services.

According to the LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, more than 10,000 affordable homes have potentially been lost over the past three years due to office conversions bypassing the planning system.

Some 90% of councils responding to an LGA survey expressed concern about the quality, design and/or appropriateness of such housing, with almost 60% worried about the safety of locations.

Two-thirds said that contributions by developers to affordable housing and for other infrastructure through section 106 agreements had fallen, with 61% reporting that demands on local infrastructure and services had increased.

The loss of office space is also leaving businesses and start-ups without any premises in which to base themselves, LGA Housing spokesman Councillor Martin Tett warned.

With councils approving 9 in 10 planning applications, planning is not a barrier to housebuilding he added, but it is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process.

The LGA wants the Government not only to scrap the existing rules, but also to drop proposals to extend them in order to allow upwards extensions to be built without planning permission and allow the demolition of existing commercial buildings for new homes without planning consent.

Last reviewed 4 December 2018

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