Demand for houses takes over offices

Bristol has seen nearly half a million sq ft of office space converted into residential property – the highest rate outside of London – since 2013 when the Government introduced new planning laws to make such changes easier, a report commissioned by the British Council for Offices (BCO) reveals. Bristol City Council’s planning

department has received 123 notifications from developers planning to convert office space since the rules were changed in May 2013, which together have the potential to create 1,995 new homes. While this may be good news for

house buyers, it has led to a shortage of commercial space in the city pushing up rents for businesses. In Bristol city centre, some Grade B office rents have increased from £10 to £25 per sq ft per annum in just

five years, according to one Bristol property expert. This has led to some office to residential conversion proposals such as the Programme, formerly known as The Pithay, near Broadmead, being reviewed and delivered to the market as office refurbishments. The new ‘permitted development’ rules introduced in 2013 require developers to notify planning departments of their intention to convert office space. If local authorities do not respond, the developers have the right to proceed. Where local authorities demand further detail, they can then approve or reject the proposals but only on much narrower grounds than under the normal planning system. So, although Bristol City Council has chosen to scrutinise every

notification it has received, the vast majority are then approved. Mark Alker Stone, chairman, BCO

SW and Wales Chapter said: “There is no denying that more housing is needed in Bristol, and the conversion of some older buildings which are no longer suitable as offices is a sensible solution. However, once office space is lost to residential development, it is often lost for good. “This loss means that many

Bristol businesses will not have access to office space of the right quality, in the right location, to succeed and drive growth. “To ensure future economic prosperity, local authorities must

Mark Alker Stone, Chairman at BCO SW and Wales Chapter

take a more active approach to reviewing and approving notifications from developers in order to protect the workplaces needed by local businesses. “Bristol now lacks good quality commercial space with the key issue being the lack of new development in the city.”


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26 insight JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

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