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News Release


Jones Lang LaSalle planning expert examines new planning rules

Office premises can now be converted into housing without the need for planning permission


Exeter, 6 March 2013 - Catherine Baddeley, Planning Consultant, in JonesLangLaSalle's Exeter office examines new planning rules announced by Community Secretary Eric Pickles, which propose that office premises can now be converted into housing without the need for planning permission.
Catherine said: "Effective from Spring 2013, the changes to Permitted Development rights will address a number of local issues that we think could have a particularly interesting effect on Exeter’s current property markets.
"The new rules only allow the conversion from office to residential where it can be demonstrated that the space is no longer viable for commercial use. To some extent we have already seen this happening across Exeter, although this has tended to be in secondary locations outside the prime business district and in buildings that are out-dated for office use. For example, Northerhnay House in New North Road was converted from English China Clays (now Imerys) headquarters into student accommodation by Unite. 
"However, my colleague Andrew Pearce, director in the Exeter office agency believes that under the new rules, there will be a number of empty or partially vacant office buildings in more key city centre areas that could now be considered suitable for residential use. These include Exminster House, Exbridge House and Trinity Court to name but a few.
"In particular he suggests that premises located within older, historic buildings such as the ones around the Cathedral, could certainly be considered suitable for conversion to residential use.  Andrew estimates that some 150,000 sq ft of office space is no longer used commercially, with a further 200,000 sq ft being considered for alternative uses elsewhere.
"With this in mind, the change in legislation could create a significant amount of new housing within the city and potentially in areas that are currently non-residential. It could also provide a much needed lifeline for many commercial buildings which have thus far failed to deliver viability for their owners, providing an opportunity for new investment and an increase in land values.
In our view, mixed-use developments that offer retail, residential and commercial office space are increasingly popular and stimulate activity which in turn helps regeneration. A good example of this is the new Princesshay shopping centre which combines retail with residential and has brought life back to Exeter city centre. Similarly, the former Prudential offices (now Portland House) in Longbrook Streer has planning permission for conversion from offices to student accommodation.
"However, property owners looking to convert offices into residential accommodation can’t do so automatically; prior approval will still be needed before they can go ahead which means any proposed change of use that do not meet approval requirements will still need a planning application. Equally, any structural work or works to a listed building would still need planning permission in the normal way.
"We also shouldn’t forget the changes that are proposed to the conversion of agricultural outbuildings, which could have huge implications for improving the viability of rural communities and in helping to enable wider farm diversification. Although the conversion to residential use is specifically excluded and the proposals will still need to follow the prior approval process, it could also offer new and exciting opportunities across the region for both owners and investors.
"It’ll no doubt be a waiting game to see how many landowners do actually take up the opportunity to utilise these new changes and it will be interesting to see how many schemes are in fact implemented as a result of prior approval being given"