PM urged to end ‘dangerous’ office-to-residential conversions

A petition calls for a parliamentary debate to abolish the creation of homes under Permitted Development Rights.

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An open letter has today been sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlining calls to end the creation of homes through office-to-residential conversions.

In 2013, the introduction of Permitted Development Rights (PDR) has allowed office buildings to be converted to housing without requiring “normal” planning permission.

According to the letter, authored by architects Levitt Bernstein, almost 42,000 “tiny and inaccessible” homes have been created since the policy’s introduction.

A recent report also highlights that some windowless rooms aren’t just used for sleeping, but are also used as spaces to cook, eat and socialise – with the group’s own petition calling for parliamentary debate to put an end to the “dangerous” policy.

One example includes a shed on an industrial estate in Watford which had ‘Prior Approval’ to be turned into 15 flats, with seven of them planned to have no daylight at all.

The letter outlines Johnson’s previous duties as Mayor of London and the introduction of the London Housing Design Guide, in which he introduced a total of 75 housing standards.

Following the introduction of PDR, none of the 75 standards could be applied to office-to-resi developments, even in London.

“If there were any lingering doubts about the need to protect basic attributes, they soon evaporated,” the letter continued.

The letter also continued to reference Johnson’s pledge to end ‘hobbit homes’, and not reduce the minimum size for a single-person home from 50m² to 37m².

The standards were adopted across the country as the Nationally Described Space Standard (NDSS).

But rather than make it mandatory, it was left to local authorities to “justify adoption”, creating what Theresa May referred to as a ‘postcode lottery’, the letter continues.

“We imagine that you are as concerned about this as we are. It must be very distressing to see your standards tossed aside as though they no longer matter.

“The homes created under PDR may just about be fit for hobbits but they are certainly not fit for human habitation – as defined under the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018,” the letter concludes.

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