Change of use plans 'watered down'

Plans to relax rules on changing offices into flats look likely to be watered down after encountering opposition from local authority planners, according to reports.

Ministers had wanted to convert more office space to residential
Ministers had wanted to convert more office space to residential
Ministers had hoped to help address the housing shortage and boost economic growth by allowing developers to convert empty office buildings into residential under permitted development rights. Communities secretary Eric Pickles claimed that the plan could create 260,000 homes.

But the proposals were met with criticism from groups including the Local Government Association, umbrella body London Councils and the Planning Officers Society, which questioned whether the planning system was holding back change of use applications, as had been claimed.

According to today's Financial Times, concerns were also raised by "communities and local government insiders", who warned that the move "could antagonise local authorities".

The paper says the proposals were originally due to be introduced via secondary legislation, but are now expected to appear in the National Planning Policy Framework. A final decision on the proposals is expected imminently, it says.

Planning Officers Society spokesman John Silvester said: "We put forward a submission to DCLG outlining our concerns and suggesting certain ways forward. We don't know for certain what the outcome will be but if these reports are anything to go by then things look promising."

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokeswoman denied that a decision had been made. "These claims are simply not credible," she said. "The government has consulted on proposed changes to use class orders and is now considering response before deciding on the way ahead."

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