United Kingdom Property News

Plan to turn vacant UK offices into flats

Developers may soon be allowed to turn vacant UK office accommodation into flats without having to seek planning permission.

Experts believe up to 40,000 flats could be created for under-used commercial property in London and the South-East in and could have a “profound impact” on London. Across the country, the figure could be nearer 100,000.

Planning minister, Nick Boles, is set to announce the plans this week, say commentators.
The proposals could bring a flood of applications from developers to transform disused or part-empty commercial buildings where vacancy rates are three times higher than in the residential sector.

Adam Pyrke, head of London planning for property adviser Colliers International, told the Evening Standard newspaper, “There are hundreds of office buildings — mostly small scale — all over London that are suitable for conversion and could add a lot of residential. Each one would probably only provide a handful of units but it is incremental. The planning system has failed to provide enough housing.”

There could be three million square feet of vacant space that could be turned into homes in central London alone, he suggested.

But London Mayor’s chief of staff Sir Edward Lister said Mayor Boris Johnson would be concerned about any loss of office space on the edges of the city. “It’s cheap land and any wholesale conversion to residential could be disastrous for Tech City. We wouldn’t want anything that affected the viability of that.”

A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government department said, “This Government is committed to getting brownfield land and empty buildings back into productive use. We are currently looking to make it easier to convert empty and under-used commercial space into residential use,” the newspaper reports.

The planned reforms are set to be resisted by some London boroughs, including Kensington & Chelsea, Camden, Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark that all have policies resisting loss of office space. The City is also strongly opposed.