It has been confirmed that areas in 17 local authorities in England have achieved exemption from new permitted development rights to convert offices to homes which were designed to ensure best use is made of empty and underused buildings.
The Mayor Boris Johnson encouraged local authorities to apply for exemptions in their respective areas at the time he put in his bids to preserve London’s key business districts from the proposals, which the the government unveiled in January.
Local authorities were given until 22 February if they wanted to seek a local exemption but only where this could be justified by “exceptional” economic grounds.
The measures, which will come into force on 30 May will run for a period of three years and allows change of use from B1(a) offices to C3 residential.
Locations consisting of individual buildings, roads or zones in the City of London and the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington and Chelsea are now exempt from new measures coming into force on 30 May.
Other areas are in the borough councils of Vale of the White Horse, Stevenage, Ashford (Kent), the district councils of Sevenoaks and East Hampshire, and Manchester City Council have also applied and been approved from exemption.
The changes are designed to bring buildings back to life by reducing costs, cutting bureaucracy and making it easier to change them to other uses and is an opportunity for office owners and developers to bring outdated and underused buildings back to life and create much needed new housing.
High street premises will be able to be used for new types of business without permission and existing agricultural buildings, under 500m2, will be able to be utilised for a range of new uses such as shops or offices, to provide more chances for rural businesses to diversify.
In a move to assist the government’s free schools agenda, a series of measures will also facilitate the conversion of existing buildings to become new state-funded schools.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
“There is huge untapped potential in the many disused existing buildings we have and we’re determined that every one of them is put to good use.
“By simplifying the process and relaxing some stringent rules we can provide a helping hand to those eager to boost their high streets or rural communities by cutting the time and costs needed to start up new businesses.”