New report identifies vast amount of office space lost to residential conversions over past year

Over 6 million ft² of office space was converted into residential developments in 2014, an investigation by the British Council of Offices (BCO) has found.

New analysis commissioned by the BCO found that since the introduction of Permitted Development Right (PDR) for office-to-residential conversions, over 6m ft² of space has been lost in 2014 alone compated to 3.7m ft² during the height of the last boom in 2008.

The BCO states that the changes have impacted on some of the most important commercial office markets in England. In a statement the BCO said: “In London in particular, office-to-residential conversions are now occurring at a faster pace than ever before with 2.7m ft² of office space lost to residential conversions since May 2013.”

The report notes that a “substantial” proportion of PDRs have not yet been implemented, but that as much as 104m ft² of space could be lost in London by May 2016 if all current approvals were implemented.

The report identified Islington as the borough most affected by office-to-resi conversions, which are occurring at a rate of 5.2% of current office stock under the new rights in the non-exempt area, equating to a loss of over 228,000 ft²t of office space since May 2013.

In Bristol, 870,000 ft² of office space has been granted prior approval for residential conversion, with the research finding that around 50% of approved office-to-residential conversions have been implemented in the city since 2013.

Richard Kauntze, chief executive of the BCO said: “With around 6 million sq ft of office space being converted to residential in England in 2014, it is time to take stock and consider the impact of the office-to-residential permitted development right. While the PDR can certainly contribute towards much needed housing, a cautious approach is required.

“When, in 2013, the Government consulted on the possibility of allowing the conversion of offices to housing without the need to secure planning permission, the BCO stressed the vital need to avoid a free-for-all. This is now more important than ever, as the increase in office-to-residential conversions since the introduction of the PDR represents a growing challenge in how to satisfy office demand.”