Almost 100 affordable homes lost through office conversions in Three Rivers

13th January 2020

Three Rivers residents have potentially lost out on almost 100 desperately-needed affordable homes in the past four years as a result of Government rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission, a new analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed. 

Office conversions carried out under the permitted development right – which allows homes to be created without going through the planning system – amount to almost half of all new housing in Three Rivers in 2018-2019. The total of 43% of all new homes was the third-highest percentage in the country after Harlow and Norwich.  

This means communities have no way to ensure developers meet high-quality standards, provide any affordable homes as part of the development or ensure supporting infrastructures such as roads, schools and health services are in place. 

The LGA said councils want to work with the Government to tackle the housing shortage and ensure new housing meets the needs of communities. As part of this, it is calling on permitted development rules to be scrapped and local communities to be allowed to have a vital say on new developments in their area. 

Since 2015, there have been 214 new homes converted from offices under permitted development in Three Rivers. As the council has a policy that 45% of all new homes should be affordable, this has led to the loss of 67 social rented homes and 29 shared ownership or other low-cost home ownership properties.   

Leader of the Council, Cllr Sara Bedford, said: “It has now been proved that this Government policy has deprived Three Rivers’ residents of hundreds of school places and 96 affordable homes. In a high-cost area such as Three Rivers, these homes are desperately needed to help younger residents stay in the area in which they have lived all their lives. The loss of infrastructure contributions means existing residents have to bear the pressure of more residents needing public services, without the funding to pay for them. 

“It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process and are able to oversee all local developments. By scrapping permitted development rules, the Government can give councils and communities the ability to ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place.”