While people have been dreaming of living in large homes with gardens in the suburbs or countryside, the reality all too many have been waking up to is very different, especially if they live in a “home” delivered via permitted development rights (PDR).

Liz Hamson leader

Liz Hamson, editor

Since the introduction of office-to-residential PDR in 2013, the fast-track planning regime has attracted its fair share of criticism – and rightly so.

Hailed initially as the solution to the housing crisis and then, following its expansion, as the solution to the retail crisis, it has led to the creation of ‘rabbit hutch’ homes across the land that would be a tight squeeze for a bunny to live in, let alone a human. It is little wonder they have been dubbed “the slums of the future”.

Now, just as we have all finally understood the value of more living space, could we be about to see another wave of PDR deliver housing with less of it?

It is the kind of quick-fix solution you can see the government getting behind in its haste to recover from the pandemic. It would get rid of some of the surplus retail space on our high streets for one. Then there is all that redundant office space that is expected to hit the market as we switch to a hybrid home/office way of working.

Of course, this won’t be an issue for those towns and cities that, thanks to the first PDR gold rush, now have a significant shortage of office space. But there are locations that resisted the first wave, particularly in London, where several authorities applied for an exemption to office-to-resi PDR to protect their office stock. With less now to protect, there are signs that the wind might have changed direction in the capital.

This week, Property Week reveals that the City of London Corporation is reviewing its exemption and is preparing a report on its Article 4 direction. The move came, coincidentally, as it unveiled plans to deliver at least 1,500 new homes by 2030 by converting empty offices into housing.

It will be great if it can hit its target of at least 35% affordable housing, but it will also need to deliver housing that appeals to City types. They will be OK with high-spec, bijou digs. They won’t with the low-grade, barely fit for human habitation accommodation that some developers have got away with under PDR, particularly in less prime locations.

If the corporation is planning to use PDR to deliver this housing, could this be the opportunity to clean up the image of the much-derided planning hack?

You talked, we listened

I had an interesting email a few weeks back from a long-time reader of Property Week. “Where have all of the deal stories gone?” he asked me. I told him that since the start of the pandemic we had switched our focus to PropertyWeek.com as some readers were not receiving their print magazines at home. He informed me that he didn’t use our website. He read the print magazine – and wasn’t best pleased that the number of deal stories had dwindled. In light of our conversation and feedback from other readers, we have reinstated the weekly ‘Deals’ page but moved it from the back of the magazine to the front. So if you have a deal you want to tell us about, get in touch – and we’ll cover it in print and online.