Updated May 26, 2021

Permitted development rights could threaten 16,000 affordable homes

Analysis undertaken by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests that over the last five years, more than 16,000 affordable homes could have been lost in England due to office to residential conversions that haven't had to go through the full planning process.

Permitted development rights (PDR) allow the change of use from commercial, business and service uses (class E) to residential use (C3) in England without the need for the developers to go through the full planning process.

Research in 2019/2020 found the percentage of all new homes resulting from office conversions were as high as:

  • 56.6% in Trafford;
  • 40.9% in Crawley;
  • 37.5% in Harlow;
  • 36.7% in Walsall; and
  • 36.3% in Luton.

Many Councils have concerns that office blocks that have been left empty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are at risk of being converted into housing using permitted development rights, with their concern being that this could lead to substandard housing.

The LGA who act as the representative body for councils have called for PDRs to be scrapped in order to strengthen the locally-led planning system.

LGA housing spokesperson, David Renard, said on the matter: "There is a real possibility that some office blocks, retail and commercial spaces will remain empty beyond Covid-19 and end up being converted into housing under permitted development rights, bypassing the local planning system and the voice of local communities, who will be hamstrung in their ability to raise any objections or issues. We have long had concerns over the substandard housing created from permitted development conversions, and the lack of any requirement for developers to provide affordable homes or supporting infrastructure."

"The planning system exists to enable the delivery of a mix of high-quality, affordable housing that meets the needs of local communities, and gives those communities the opportunity to shape and define the area they live in. Councils are committed to building the housing this country desperately needs as part of the national recovery from coronavirus, but we urge the Government to protect the future quality of new homes by permanently revoking the permitted development rights for change of use into homes."