The government has revived plans to allow the conversion of vacant office buildings to residential use, a flagship policy from last year designed to increase the pipeline of new homes that the coalition said subsequently would not be implemented following a hostile reaction to consultation.

The Government confirmed that it would not take the proposals forward in a ministerial statement issued by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles last week in support of the housing stimulus package.

Pickles says the government will press ahead with the introduction of permitted development rights to enable change of use from commercial to residential purposes, but will provide an opportunity for planning authorities to seek a local exemption where they believe there will be an adverse economic impact.

‘This common sense measure will help the regeneration of our towns and cities. Our high streets will benefit from a greater resident population, increasing footfall and supporting local shops,’ said Pickles.

In July this year the government launched a separate consultation on a raft of permitted development proposals for encouraging the re-use of existing buildings, including: temporary ‘low impact’ use of commercial buildings for two years; increases in the size thresholds for change of use in business/office and warehouse space; lifting change of use controls on agricultural buildings to boost rural enterprise; and the conversion of hotels and boarding houses to residential use. 

The RIBA’s response to the consultation and a further consultation on the information required for outline planning applications, can be found on the RIBA website