Proposed Changes to Permitted Development Rights02/04/2013 00:00
 Proposed changes to Permitted Development Rights have featured extensively in the press over several months now and are being promoted by the Government as a means of kick starting the economy and the commercial property market. Stephen Chown asks if this means Northampton is about to experience a boom.

Free planning permission! Do what you like for 3 years: It sounds great! In fact it is a set of new measures introduced by the Coalition Government's to extend permitted development rights for a temporary period with the aim of stimulating economic growth. It makes sense: make it easier to carry out development, or change the use of buildings without planning permission and development is more likely to occur, with the end result that people are employed to build, fit out and eventually staff the new accommodation. In theory, it may even give some developers the opportunity to avoid the Community Infrastructure Levy thus making development more profitable and more likely to go ahead at the margins.

So far, so good. In practice only a small percentage of businesses will be able to extend their buildings but the Government is encouraging under used office buildings to be converted to residential for the next 3 years and this may well be something we see happening more in Northampton. We recently sold 14,000 Sq.Ft. of offices for use as a school at Stirling House and several offices at Saxon Court have received consent for residential conversion within the last year.
Whilst agricultural buildings will not be permitted to be converted into residential use, there will be provisions to allow some conversions, potentially to offices uses, shops, restaurants and leisure uses without planning permission. Early indications are that a size restriction will apply so small offices in a barn are probably more likely than a new Heart of the Shires.

So lets consider the theory of change of use for a temporary period … what happens at the end of this period? If it is going to revert back to its original use what incentive have I got to spend money on the fit-out and what happens to the people employed there in the meantime? It proves that the Government are thinking about the importance of High Streets but the practical implications will need to be carefully considered.

In summary: these policies aren't going to trigger a boom but for a small number of specialist situations, where the funds are available, business may feel that one impediment to development has been lifted. Keeping an eye out for such opportunities is obviously the way forward and may make some potential deals look more attractive. Where the possibility of alternative use introduces a more positive future for a property, higher prices may be justified.


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