Landlords and property investors could be handed a new opportunity in 2021 – to convert retail units to residential property more easily than ever before.
In a new consultation, Supporting housing delivery and public service infrastructure, published on 3 December, the Government is looking for views on whether to allow Class E property to change its use to residential. This would mean altering the general permitted development order to allow retail units to be converted into homes. The MHCLG proposals are being tagged as a way to breathe new life into high streets and town centres. Traditional retail is under the cosh and enabling developers to quickly and easily convert retail to much-needed new homes sounds positive.
As it stands, Class E is a broad use class and it doesn’t only cover retail. It also applies to hospitality, financial and professional services, indoor sport and recreation, medical or health services, crèche, nursery and day centres, offices, research and development and light industrial uses. So extending the use class to residential too would give landlords and investors scope to turn all kinds of buildings into homes. So far so good. However, the proposed changes not only apply to urban areas. The new permitted development right could be made applicable in a whole range of locations except in national parks, the Norfolk Broads, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty and World Heritage sites plus a number of other specially designated places. Conservation areas may be up for grabs too. Permitted development rights are by their nature ‘light touch’ so rapid planning approval could be given to convert all kinds of buildings to residential use in out-of town as well as urban locations. That wouldn’t do much to bring our deteriorating town centres back to life.
The other issue of course is that with bricks and mortar retail in decline, it is vital to ensure that the pendulum does not swing too far towards residential, leaving us with town centres dominated by housing. Local authorities must be given plenty of leeway to get the balance right. So we say yes to enabling retail–to–resi conversion – but it must be done right. We should be wary of giving investors and developers a free hand to create new housing in any under-utilised building they can acquire at the right price. This cannot be good for our communities. Surely it would be better to first consider other options for commercial space that could bring the vibrancy back to our town centres that is so sorely lacking in many parts of the country. By all means let’s find new ways to streamline planning policy but we must all be aware of the potential for unintended consequences.
To read the consultation and have your say click here.
Mary-Anne Bowring FIRPM FRICS FARLA FCABE Founder/Head of Asset Management
Strategic partnerships, holistic delivery/ opportunities, growth, value engineering, thought leadership
Ian Barber MD BTR Mobilisation & Leasing
Runs HQ & site lease-up teams. Drives rent pricing, mobilisation, marketing, happy residents!
Jon Curtis MRICS Head of Building Engineering
Chartered Building Surveyor. Lectures on EWS1 & building safety. Runs CapEx programmes.
Kate Robinson MIRPM MD Blocks/FM Management (London Region)
Master plan setup, ops and staffing and resident engagement. ISO45001 champion.
Lee Harle Partner Ringley Law
Plot conveyancing. Debt litigation. Group Company Secretary.
Anthony Kingdon MIRPM AssocRICS MD Blocks/FM Management (North Region)
Stakeholder engagement. Mixed tenure specialist. Budget management. Plant audit, PPM compliance.
Chris Georgalis MRICS Head of Commercial Valuation
Chartered Valuer. Rental valuations: retail, leisure. IRR modelling and valuations for secured lending. Compulsory purchase & rent reviews
Nichola Pughe MRICS Head of Residential Valuation
Chartered Valuer. Rental development & mixed use valuations, IRR modelling. Leasehold enfranchisement specialist
Libby Chen MSc Compliance Manager
Operational Plant & Equipment strategy PPM Compliance lead, Asset tagging Client major projects
Dipesh Parekh Director PlanetRent
Customer centric, vertically integrated PropTech/fin-tech solutions.
Leana Aristodemou MIRPM MARLA AssocRICS Strategic lead: ESG & Asset Business Plan delivery
Financial modelling, valuation analyst to support underwriting & fund reporting.
Natalie Birmingham Helpdesk Support Manager
Trainer & Helpdesk Manager: people, systems,contractors. ISO45001 supply chain accreditation.
Steve Norman Planning Director
Land due diligence (opportunities & constraints) Has contributed to a number of award winning schemes.