Rise in ‘change of use’ projects

An increase in the number of offices and shops being converted into flats has led to a surge in England’s housing stock, it has been reported.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), reveal there were 189,650 dwellings added to the housing stock in England between April 2015 and March 2016, up 11% on the year before.

Traditional new-build properties rose by 8,860 units to 163,940. But the most marked increase was ‘change of use’, with 30,600 new units compared with 20,650 the year before. Of these, 12,824 were offices converted into flats.

The Centre Point building in London has been the highest-profile case of office to flat conversions but many 1960s concrete office blocks in Croydon that no longer fit for modern commercial use have also been converted.

Four years ago, around half the office space in Croydon was empty but the area has since seen a frenzy of office conversion activity.

The boom is partly down to new ‘permitted development rights’, which allow developers to proceed without conventional planning permission.

Michele Wietscher, director at Newview Windows & Conservatories, said this trend has been an opportunity for the business, but it is not without its downsides.

“Critics say many units fail to meet minimum space standards,” she said. “We need affordable living but not at the expense of quality of living. Another con is the reduction in office stock, which is driving up prices for businesses looking to relocate to serviced office space.”

The report went on to say that although housebuilding figures are up, the total number of new-builds remains short of the 200,000 units a year target.