Monday, 19 August 2013

Office to residential – some interesting examples

NOTE: There have been significant changes to the law since this blog post was published, and so the material printed below (including the appended comments) does not accurately reflect the current position. For completely up-to-date and fully comprehensive coverage of this subject, we would strongly recommend readers to obtain a copy of the author’s new book - ”A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PERMITTED CHANGES OF USE” published by Bath Publishing in October 2015. You can order your copy by clicking on the link on the left-hand sidebar of this page.

There are interesting and encouraging signs that some LPAs are taking a positive and proactive approach to the new permitted development right allowing the conversion of offices to residential use. Furthermore, despite the doubts I expressed initially, it seems that there are no qualms about multiple conversions, involving the creation of a significant number of new flats within a single large office building.

I understand that Birmingham City Council has recently approved a 120-unit conversion in an office building in the city under the prior approval procedure introduced in May, rather than by means of an application for full planning permission. Other large schemes are in the pipeline around the country, but a few authorities are showing a degree of reluctance to accept such conversions, even for single units. As I have observed before, we shall have to await the outcome of a number of appeals before it becomes clear how the issues that arise from the drafting of the legislation are likely to be resolved.

It seems that the LPAs that are responding positively to these prior approval applications are fully prepared to accept that there is no opportunity to seek any element of affordable housing in such schemes and that the scope for securing other benefits from developers is limited. If there are any LPAs that don’t accept this, they may find out the hard way, through the appeals process, what the true limits of their powers are under the new prior approval procedure.



  1. I am looking at a scheme to turn B1 offices into residential, and want to provide studio units for students, nurses and young working people. My architect is suggesting that student accommodation may require planning and £1000 per unit fees plus recreational space contributions, particularly if we incorporate any kitchen facilities in the studios. As there are limited student numbers in the area we don't want to restrict ourselves to students nor to exclude them. Are studios treated differently to other 1/2/3 bedroom flats. Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

  2. The answer to Richard’s question would depend on whether or not the proposed accommodation might (or might not) be seen as an HMO. This will require careful consideration based on the precise facts. It is the sort of point on which Keystone Law’s planning law team would be happy to advise if we were to receive instructions in the matter.

  3. Its been a few months since the first of these applications were made, and I was wondering if any one was aware of any appeals yet?