By Daniel Hunter

The property industry has welcomed Government plans to introduce new permitted development rights to convert offices to homes without planning permission.

In a statement Secretary of State Eric Pickles announced that proposals to ease the planning rules would go ahead following consultation last year.

The British Property Federation said the move towards greater flexibility, long-supported by landlords, would boost housing supply and bring vacant property back in to use.

Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the British Property Federation, said: “Given our acute shortage of homes this is an extremely welcome step.

“Office to residential conversions won’t work for all buildings, or in every area, but any trip through our suburbs soon exposes redundant office space that with the best will in the world is never going to be brought back into commercial use.

“Such conversions will be good for those seeking homes, the wider community and local authorities, who will gain from the New Homes Bonus and council tax receipts that occupation generates.

“However, will need to see further detail on how 'local exceptions' schemes will work. Any exemptions should be few and far between, and this aspect will need to be tightly drawn and policed if it is not to undermine the overall policy objective.”

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