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Jan 22, 2013

Plans to ease rules on converting office buildings into homes

Many people feel they can’t escape the office when they go home and this could literally be the case for some London workers if proposed changes to UK planning law are accepted.

Planning Minister Nic Boles is expected to announce a new “permitted development right” which will allow offices to be converted into flats without obtaining permission from the council.

This will represent a major change to the current system, where obtaining permission to develop office buildings into residences can be a lengthy processes that can cost millions.

It is hoped this will increase the supply of new homes in a period when building figures are near an all-time low. Due to this, and the banks’ on-going reluctance to lend, the age of the average first time buyer has now risen to 33, according to recent research from the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Experts think the changes could spark many conversions in the centre of London; an area in which residential properties have been rapidly increasing in value over recent years.

Charles Fairhurst, chief executive of Fairbridge Residential Investment Management, suggested many empty offices are ideal for conversion

He said: “If you walk around Fitzrovia you quickly realise there are an awful lot of less attractive office buildings which would do better as residential.”

However not every authority is in favour of the changes, with those in the City of London being offered an exemption after objecting to the proposals.

Mark Field, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said: “We’ve just had a once-in-a-lifetime financial crisis so it’s hard to judge what the demand will be for office space in the coming years. I’ve made representations on behalf of the Square Mile for an exemption so I am delighted by this sensible move.”

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