Could newly relaxed planning rules turn the old paint-stripping workshop around the corner into our ticket to a bigger house? We’ve been walking past its boarded-up windows for years on the way to my daughter’s school in southwest London, but from this month permitted development rights will make it easier to convert light-industrial sites into homes. I’m tempted should we snap it up?
Exclusive research by LandInsight, a land search app, has mapped more than 160,000 sites in England with class Blc use for “light industry appropriate in a residential area”. Almost 7,000 are vacant. “These present a lot of opportunity,” says Andrew Moist, a would-be self builder who co-founded LandInsight four years ago after struggling to find land in London. “For small buy-to- let investors, it could be the next step up”
The permitted development (PD) rights, which came into force in England on October l for a period of three years, only cover existing buildings smaller than 500 sq metres (5,382 sq ft), which, Moist points out, are “not that attractive to large developers”. That gives self builders and small-scale developers a chance to swoop.
The change follows the introduction in 2013 of PD rights to turn offices into homes. Government data shows that this led to 13,800 new homes in 2015-16, or one out of every 13. The conversion rate has soared fivefold, to 1% of office stock a year, causing a 0.25% net loss of office space, according to CBRE, the property services firm.
The scheme is not without controversy. Critics say that bypassing normal rules means these homes are often smaller than planners would require, and councils lose their ability to make developers pay for affordable homes and infrastructure.