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    Office change of use to homes initiative launched

    The Coalition has begun consulting on proposals to scrap the need for change of use permission for converting commercial property into residential. This move is designed to make it easier for developers to turn vacant offices into homes.

    Plans to bring empty commercial buildings back into use to increase housing supply by deregulating the planning system were set out in the Budget’s Growth Review report  in March.

    The Department for Communities and Local Government has estimated that if all the long-term office space currently available was converted it could potentially deliver 250,000 new homes and save just under £140m over ten years in unnecessary red tape costs.

    A wider review of the change of use rules (the Use Classes Orders), and their interaction with permitted development rights will also be carried out later this year.

    Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has called for local communities and authorities to make greater use of their existing local planning powers in the shape of Local Development Orders to grant permission and reduce the planning burden locally.

    The minister said: “By unshackling developers from a legacy of bureaucratic planning we can help them turn thousands of vacant commercial properties into enough new homes to jump start housing supply and help get the economy back on track. Councils already have powers to give greater local planning discretion and they should use them more to promote growth.”

    The consultation seeks views on a plan to amend the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 to grant permitted development rights for change of use from class B1 (Business), B2 (General Industry) and B8 (Storage and distribution) to class C3 (Dwelling houses) without the need for planning applications. It will run to 30 June 2011.

    Planning Portal 06.05.2011