Local Government Association wants two affordable housing loopholes to be closed

Permitted development rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission are exacerbating the nation’s housing affordability crisis and should be scrapped, the Local Government Association has said.

The LGA has also urged the government to drop proposed plans, contained in the Budget, to extend the rules to allow upwards extensions to be built without planning permission and allow the demolition of existing commercial buildings for new homes without planning consent.

The Association claimed that communities had missed out on more than 10,000 affordable homes in the past three years as a result of government rules on permitted development.

According to the LGA, latest figures show that since 2015, a total of 42,130 housing units in England have been converted from offices to flats without having to go through the planning system. “As a result, they included no affordable housing or supporting investment in infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services.”

The LGA added that while this amounted to approximately 7% of new homes nationally, in some parts of the country it represented a much higher proportion of all new housing. Office to residential conversions under permitted development rules accounted for 40% of new homes in Islington, Welwyn Hatfield, Mole Valley, Croydon and Derby in 2017/18.

A survey of councils in England has meanwhile found concerns about the rules, finding that:

Around nine out of 10 councils were concerned about the quality/design and the appropriateness of the location of housing as a result and almost six out of 10 were concerned about safety.

Around two-thirds thought that both contributions by developers to affordable housing and contributions for other infrastructure through section 106 agreements had reduced. A similar proportion (61%) thought that demands on local infrastructure/services had increased.

60% of councils said they were concerned about the demand being placed on health and social care services and school place planning as a result of homes being built through permitted development rules

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, said: “Permitted development rules are taking away the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in, ensures homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place and have resulted in the potential loss of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes.

“The loss of office space is also leaving businesses and start-ups without any premises in which to base themselves.

“Extending permitted development rules risks exacerbating these problems.”