In March, the Government recently announced it is widening Permitted Development Rights (PDR) so developers can demolish empty buildings and replace them with good quality new build housing – without planning permission.
Consultation on the controversial move is currently being undertaken and a paper is due to be published in Spring 2020.
The new PDR is one of a number of planning freedoms aimed at speeding up housing delivery, and will apply to vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings to be replaced with well designed, new residential units that meet national standards.
Here, Chris Nunn, Business Development Director at LOK Developments, part of Newcastle-based The Morton Group, talks about the benefits of the new planning freedoms based on his experience of converting office and other commercial buildings for residential use.
He said: “We have excellent experience on what can and can’t be achieved when converting office and commercial buildings into new residential accommodation.
“There are many significant benefits, including financial benefits, to using existing structures for development.
“As well as being an easy win in terms of planning regulations and permissions, it’s usually the case that considerable added value applies to a commercial building that is partly or completely vacant.
“There are tremendous benefits, too, when converting commercial buildings which have a concrete structure in terms of build cost.
“These concrete structures are usually robust in design, as the loading requirements of an office is greater than that of an apartment, so they can easily and cost effectively be built on to create higher or larger developments for residential occupancy.
“As a leading building contractor our delivery arm Kapex Construction has a wide range of experience on projects of this kind, we know full well what can and can’t be achieved in this arena.
“As a principle contractor we’ve converted former offices such as Eagle Star House, Eldon House in Gosforth into residential apartments, and have completed smaller scale residential projects such as Albert House, a conversion of a Grade II Listed building once used as offices for the Post Office in Durham City.
“We have learned that a full appreciation of the build costs, alongside choosing the right design and construction team, is the key to delivering high quality successful office to residential developments and ensuring we get these conversions right.
“Although they can be seen as controversial in some areas, the new PDR stipulates that through good design and placemaking, such as the introduction of tree-lined streets and low carbon emissions, the best developments will go some way to providing much-needed homes for people at a faster rate.
“We believe the new planning freedoms offers developers and their clients some tremendous and cost-effective opportunities for the conversion of commercial buildings into residential homes.”