Report claims dozens of Wigan homes converted from commercial buildings are not up to scratch

Planning laws allow homes to be created by converting commercial buildings
Planning laws allow homes to be created by converting commercial buildings

Dozens of homes in Wigan have been created by converting commercial buildings under controversial planning laws, figures show.

But the changes don’t require planning permission and the Local Government Association (LGA) warns that they can result in poorer-quality housing, and allow developers to avoid building affordable homes.

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Converting offices, farm buildings and takeaway restaurants is allowed under permitted development regulation and does not require full council scrutiny.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows 41 such homes were created in Wigan in the three years to March 2018.

In total, commercial developments accounted for two per cent of the new homes created in Wigan over the period.

For certain changes of use under permitted development, developers must get “prior approval” for aspects of the plans, but critics argue the process does not receive the same level of scrutiny as a full planning application.

An LGA spokesperson said the rules are taking away local communities’ ability to shape the area they live in and ensure homes are built to high standards, with the right infrastructure.

They added: “Planning is not a barrier to house-building, with councils approving nine in 10 planning applications. It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process.”

The spokesperson also said the loss of office space is leaving businesses and start-ups without premises.

Research by the LGA and housing charity Shelter showed developers who create homes via permitted development do not have to make contributions towards affordable housing, which is often required in the full planning process.

They claim the law has potentially resulted in the loss of more than 10,000 affordable homes.

Across England, around 46,000 homes were created via permitted development in the three years to March 2018.

This is seven per cent of the roughly 629,000 new homes created in the same period.

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “It’s high time the Government prioritised building high-quality and secure social housing, instead of relying on dubious schemes that are failing to deliver the homes local people need.”

A Ministry of Housing, spokesperson said: “Under permitted development rules, 46,000 homes have been delivered in the three years to March 2018 that may not otherwise have been developed.

“We said we will review permitted development rights for conversion of buildings to residential use in respect of the quality standard of homes delivered.”