From the Guardian
Thousands of tiny, substandard “rabbit-hutch” flats could be created in commercial buildings left empty by the coronavirus economic slowdown under planning reforms championed by Boris Johnson.
University College London professor Ben Clifford – who recently completed a government review of housing produced outside the conventional planning system – said allowing developers to turn a wider range of commercial properties into flats without planning checks could lead to a wave of substandard conversions.
“Unless there are proper safeguards, we could see even more poor-quality, tiny flats being crammed into commercial buildings lacking amenities and green space,” he said. “These could be what others have rightly called the slums of the future.”
Clifford previously co-authored a report (opens in a new tab) for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors that suggests 70% of flats produced by permitted development are below the government space standards, with some measuring just 15 square metres. Basements with little natural light and blocks on lorry-clogged industrial parks have been turned into flats by developers.
Since 2015 more than 60,000 flats have been created through permitted development in England, with almost 90% coming from office conversions. “It is popular with developers because they do not have to make a contribution to affordable housing and local infrastructure,” added Clifford. “It’s often far more profitable than going through the normal planning system.”
The latest changes will come into force in September. Details are expected later this month but it could cover banks, building societies, clinics, training centres and even gyms.
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