Rules allowing conversion of offices into flats ‘leading to sub-standard homes’

Rules allowing the conversion of offices or retail buildings into flats have led to thousands of “sub-standard” homes across the UK, according to experts.

Government research shows that over 20,000 permitted developments – conversion projects designed to create more homes – have been waved through each year without scrutiny.

Architecture firm Resi said “too many sub-standard developments are being nodded through and not properly scrutinised” as a result of the rules, aimed to create more housing.

Over a five-year period to September 2019, 115,448 permitted developments were waved through without need for approval, according to Government data.

This included more than 4,000 office to residential conversions as well as 475 retail to residential conversions.

The conversions have come amid a challenging period for office and retail landlords, who have sought for new opportunities to improve value.

In 2018, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors warned that office-to-residential schemes completed through the permitted development rules were resulting in higher numbers of poor-quality flats than those given full planning permission.

Resi also warned of the potential harmful impact of the schemes on UK high streets and town centres.

Alex Depledge, founder and chief executive officer of Resi, said: “We are also seeing some of our town centres being hollowed out as commercial property is turned into housing.

“This means that families are too often housed in accommodation that simply isn’t suitable.

“These developments fundamentally change our communities and need to be looked at more closely.”

In its latest report, the firm has called for a UK-wide housing performance measure, which it believes could improve wellbeing and happiness among residents.