UK: Office To Residential - The New Permitted Development Rights

Last Updated: 12 February 2013
Article by Anne Bennett

The timetable

The Government finally announced on 24 January that regulations will be introduced in the spring of 2013 to amend Permitted development rights to allow a change from office to residential use without the need for planning permission.

"Finally" because the policy was first announced in the Chancellor's budget in March 2011. It was consulted upon in April 2011. In July 2012 the Government announced that it would not be implementing the measure. In a statement in September 2012 Eric Pickles announced his intention to revive the policy.

Local planning authorities have been given until 22 February to seek exemption where this can be justified on economic grounds. The draft regulations will be brought forward once local planning authority requests for exemptions have been considered, presumably coming into force in April?

The changes

For a limited period of 3 years a new PD right will allow the change of use from class B1(a) offices to class C3 residential without the need for planning permission. There will be a "tightly drawn" prior approval process which will cover significant impacts on transport and highways, development in areas of high flood risk, land contamination and safety hazard zones.

Other changes proposed are the extension of PD rights to allow agricultural buildings to be used for other non residential purposes. The size threshold applicable to the existing permitted change of use from B1 to B8 and from B2 to B1 & B8 is to be increased and for a temporary 2 year period, conversion will be permitted for some town centre uses.

The office to residential exemption

Eric Pickles has said that exemptions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances where there are "unique local circumstances which should be taken into account" and it can be demonstrated that "the new rights will lead to a loss of a nationally significant area of economic activity or substantial adverse economic consequences at the local authority level that are not off set by the positive benefits that the new rights would bring". Exemptions will be limited to the geographical area justifiable in the light of the criteria.

The City of London Corporation believing that 20% of the office floor space in the Square Mile would be in immediate danger of conversion to flats, is the first to seek such an exemption because of its "concern about the impact of the proposed change to planning rules on our role as a world business centre." The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has indicated that it is likely to follow suit.

It is thought that the same concerns will apply to business districts across the whole country.

The Government's rationale

The proposal is part of a package of measures to support economic growth. The Chief Planner at CLG describes the measure as "an important contribution to assisting the economic well-being of the country". The Government considers that the loss of commercial premises will be outweighed by the benefit of new housing units, additional construction output and jobs.

The Reaction

Many have expressed concern that measures will erode the supply of office premises. The City of London's Chief Planning officer has warned of the damaging long term impact of the proposed change "The cyclical nature of the property industry means that if developers were to turn offices into residential blocks when times were tough the City's ability to attract and house new firms when market conditions improved would be seriously diminished."

There are already permitted development rights for change of use from warehouse/distribution, light industrial, agricultural and Town centre uses to office use – all of these will in future be able to change to residential without the need for planning permission.

Concerns have been raised about the prospect of housing people in unsuitable accommodation and conflicts of land uses where residential property is cheek by jowl with noisy industrial processes on industrial estates. There are concerns that there will be no opportunity to address traffic/ highway safety/air quality issues or the provision of amenity space or open spaces.

The proposals will also have the effect of circumventing normal housing policy requirements such as provision of affordable housing, secured by design, lifetime homes, renewable energy etc. There will be no opportunity to seek the usual Section 106 obligations to secure infrastructure, schools, health and other community services nor in the absence of a planning permission will liability to CIL arise.

Planning authorities are likely to try and retain some control of the development through the prior approval mechanism which may result in effectively requiring the same information as for a planning permission. Nevertheless the proposals have been broadly welcomed by the development industry which believes these problems can be overcome.

It remains to be seen whether the proposed change will have a significant impact either on the severe housing shortage across the country or upon the drive for growth and the recovery of the economy.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Anne Bennett
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.