Spring Statement: Brokenshire to assess quality of homes created under PD conversions

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has promised to review the quality of homes being built under permitted development (PD) rights, amid mounting concern about the negative impacts of the government's efforts to encourage office-to-residential conversions.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire
Housing secretary James Brokenshire

In a written statement accompanying yesterday’s Spring Statement, Brokenshire said: "I intend to review permitted development rights for conversion of buildings to residential use in respect of the quality standard of homes delivered."

No further details were provided as to the scope of the review.

The statement appears to acknowledge the tide of criticism focused on PD rights for office-to-residential conversions since the policy was adopted almost six years ago.

Hugh Ellis, policy director at the Town and Country Planning Association, last year described the permitted development right as "the most shameful built environment policy in the post-war period".

Introduced in May 2013, the PD conversions policy was initially intended as a temporary measure to increase the supply of housing but was made permanent three years later. 

In November last year, the Local Government Association (LGA) published a survey of its members, which found that nine out of ten councils were concerned about the quality of development taking place under PD rights and six out of ten raised concerns about safety.

The LGA also claimed that the lack of developer contributions under PD rights had meant the loss of 10,500 affordable homes across England over three years.

Last July, analysis by the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London found evidence of a series of unintended consequences arising from the office to residential conversions policy.

The study found just 30 per cent of projects taking place under the permitted development right met national space standards and that councils were unable to effectively monitor adherence to building regulations.

In July 2017, Planning investigated the quality of new homes created under office-to-residential PD rights in Croydon.

Despite this criticism, the government has continued to extend PD rights in recent years. Brokenshire announced yesterday that a series of further rights would be granted, including upwards extensions, high street changes of use, and single-storey extensions.

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