New move could make it easier to turn rural offices into homes

Farmers could convert empty or underused offices into much-needed housing

Formal planning permission is required for converting office space into residential homes, but the Government is proposing to bring in new permitted development rights after a series of consultations last year.

The permitted development rights changes due to come into force this Spring will allow change of use without the need for formal planning permission from the local authority in some cases.

While the plans are largely aimed at creating jobs in the construction and service industries, as well as regenerating town centres, another effect is that farmers could also convert empty or underused offices into much-needed housing.

"It is proposed that some of the permitted development rights will initially be in place for three years," said Judy Pearson, Associate at Chesterton Humberts’ Rural Division. "With a strong residential lettings market at the moment, the ability to change offices to residential use without planning permission could be useful to farmers who currently have converted office units. They would also be making a valuable contribution to easing the national housing shortage.”