Whitehall rows over plans to make it easier to converts offices in to flats, the FT reports

Civil servants are trying to block Chancellor George Osborne’s policy to make it easier for developers to convert offices into flats, the FT has reported.

Ministers are said to be having second thoughts about the policy – included in the government’s plan for growth last spring – after meeting severe resistance from communities department civil servants.

The government had planned to implement the policy in secondary legislation, with the aim of producing thousands of extra homes each year.

But the FT reports that Whitehall is now discussing incorporating the ‘change of use’ measure in the national planning policy framework – a proposal put forward by the Local Government Association and Planning Officers Society.

The dispute puts the communities department at loggerheads with the Treasury, Downing Street and the business department, which back the original plan.

The change of use proposals have met strong opposition from some quarters, including the City of London Corporation, which claims the Osbone plan willl stifle business development in the square mile.

A final decision is expected later this month in the government’s housing review or the growth review.