Fears over fast track planning rules

Building conversion rules rowBuilding conversion rules row
Building conversion rules row
Developers in Northumberland have turned vacant offices into flats scores of times in the last five years – using powers to bypass normal planning rules.

The Local Government Association says communities may have lost out on "desperately needed" affordable homes through the use of permitted development rights – which allow certain conversions without full planning permission.

Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) shows 437 office-to-residential conversions in Northumberland in the five years to 2019-20 were done this way.

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A permitted development right is general planning permission granted by Parliament and allows developers to turn office buildings into homes without submitting a full planning application, as long as they meet recently introduced requirements such as having enough space and natural light.

It also means the typical requirement to provide a proportion of affordable housing cannot be enforced.

Nationally, 65,000 conversions have been carried out under the scheme in the last five years.

David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “Permitted development rules are resulting in the potential loss of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes.

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"Planning is not a barrier to house-building. Councils approve nine in 10 planning applications. It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process."

An MHCLG spokesperson said the fast-track system contributed to the delivery of more than 243,000 extra homes of all types last year.

They added: “We are investing over £12bn in affordable housing and the infrastructure levy in our planning reforms will ensure developers deliver at least as much affordable housing as under the current system."