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Offices lying empty after the Covid-19 pandemic may be transformed into “sub-standard” home conversions, councils have warned.
The Local Government Association (LGA) suggests redundant office blocks could be bought up by developers and converted under the permitted development rights planning loophole.
The association also suggests that more than 16,000 affordable homes could have been lost in England in the past five years as a result of office-to-residential conversions because they do not require developers to make affordable housing contributions.
LGA housing spokesman councillor David Renard said: “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.”
The LGA wants the loophole to be scrapped but, despite concerns over the quality of conversions, the government is continuing with its roll-out of permitted development rights.
It recently extended the scheme to apply to all commercial units and business premises – with developers able to transform shops, banks, restaurants, gyms and offices into homes without planning permission.
Renard added: “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.”