The government has been urged not to continue with its policy of permitted development, which sees the rapid conversion of offices into homes, amid concerns that it leads to the creation of substandard housing.
The government is currently running a consultation, Planning Reform: Supporting the High Street and Increasing the Delivery of New Homes, which suggests it will make it easier for employment space to be converted into residential units.
But both the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have warned that the policy could have damaging consequences and has already led to a decline in standards in England since was established in 2013.
Under the new plans, the volume of development that can go ahead without the proper scrutiny from local authorities would be increased further. RIBA has warned that the reforms already in place have seen the creation of homes of 13 m2 which is smaller than some hotel rooms.
A spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) said: “The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in their response to the Chancellor’s 2018 Budget urged caution in simplifying the process for converting commercial buildings to housing. At a time when building quality is under severe scrutiny, there is a need for the policy to be developed alongside the building regulations review and the Hackitt implementation plan.”
RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: “We need homes that are sustainable, long-lasting, affordable and contribute to the health and happiness of the people that live in them. These proposals would enable homes to be built without any scrutiny – undermining the planning system and resulting in a race to the bottom to create the cheapest possible housing. It is unacceptable that families end up living in developments like these, with not enough space to live well.
“If we are serious about tackling the housing crisis, creating homes that last and reforming the high street, we need a properly resourced planning system that enables local authorities to consider the merits of proposals on a case by case basis, not a policy that allows shoddy, small and inadequate homes.”