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Office-to-home conversion rights undermined by councils, says Boles

Two councils have misapplied Article 4 directions in seeking to prevent office to home conversions under permitted development rights introduced last year, Planning Minister Nick Boles has said.07 Feb 2014

Boles yesterday issued a written ministerial statement in which he said that a "small minority of town halls" were trying to undermine the permitted development reforms.

Following the introduction of the new rules in May last year, Boles said he was aware of eight local authorities having issued Article 4 directions to remove the new right, with some applying across the entire authority and others applying to specific areas.

Boles said the Department for Communities and Local Government would write to the London Borough of Islington and to Broxbourne Borough Council to request that they consider reducing the extent of their  Article 4 directions so that they are "more targeted".

He said this would ensure that offices which should "legitimately benefit from this national right can do so".

Boles also said that national planning practice guidance would be updated to clarify how councils should apply tests to determine applications for prior approval for office to home conversions.

"In some instances, authorities do not appear to have applied the correctly intended tests to determine applications for prior approval and have sought to levy developer contributions where they are not appropriate," he said.

Boles said that the reforms were providing "badly needed" new homes on brownfield sites at no cost to the taxpayer. "Ministers wish to send a clear message to the housing industry that we will act to provide certainty, confidence and clarity, and that we are supporting their investment in these new homes to bring under-used property back into productive use as housing," he said.