In a statement issued today, the government said it had decided to extend the temporary permitted development rights introduced in 2013 to convert office premises to residential use, subject to local authority prior approval of a limited range of matters, beyond their current expiry date of 30 May 2016.
The statement said that the temporary rule "will be made a permanent change – after almost 4,000 conversions were given the go-ahead between April 2014 and June this year."
Last summer, the coalition government consulted on a broad range of options for expanding permitted development rights to boost the provision of new homes. They included removing the exemption from office-to-residential conversion enjoyed by swathes of central London, prompting concerns over the loss of commercial office space.
The measures were absent from a pre-election statutory instrument laid before Parliament by then-communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles in March this year. However an accompanying statement said ministers would "further consider the case" for extending the changes.
A statement issued today by property lobby group the British Property Federation said that it understood that "current protections for areas such as the City of London will remain in place."
Melanie Leech, BPF chief executive said: "We have long championed the extension of office to residential permitted development right, believing the policy to be a useful tool in breathing life back into underused commercial space.
"The policy was never designed to deliver a huge number of new homes, but any trip through our suburbs soon exposes redundant office space that with the best will in the world is never going to be brought back into commercial use, and for such situations this policy is helpful."
Planning has asked the Department for Communuites and Local Government for further details on today's announcement, and this story will be updated if more information is made available.