MORE THAN 18,000 AFFORDABLE HOUSES HAVE BEEN LOST as a result of office-to-residential conversions under permitted development, the Local Government Association (LGA) warns.

A total of 73,575 new houses have been converted from offices under permitted development rights, where full planning permission is not required, since 2015.

The LGA, which represents 350 councils in England and Wales, said that permitted development rights should be removed to ensure all conversions and new developments contribute to the delivery of desperately needed affordable homes across the country.

It also says that developments that go through the planning system are subject to more stringent quality assurance, subsequently improving the overall quality of housing on offer, a key priority in the Levelling Up White Paper.

Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils will continue to play a key role in helping the nation to level up and recover from the pandemic, and that includes meeting our joint ambition with government to tackle the housing shortage and build the homes we desperately need.

“There is a need for more affordable housing across the country but regrettably premises such as offices, agricultural buildings, shops, restaurants and light industry can now be converted into houses without the need to provide any affordable homes.

“This is why we would like to see the permitted development rights removed. Giving planning powers back to councils will also support local ambitions to revive and reimagine high streets and town centres. The upcoming Queen’s Speech should also give councils further powers to bring vacant properties back into use.

“A local, plan-led system is crucial in delivering on levelling up ambitions to ensure councils can deliver the right types of homes in the right places with appropriate infrastructure, ensuring a mix of high-quality affordable housing that meets the needs of local communities, while also giving those communities the opportunity to shape and define the area they live in.”

The actual figure of office-to-residential conversions will be higher as the legislation was introduced in May 2013, but data is not publicly available at a national level before 2015.

* Source: Local Government Association