New Permitted Development rules facilitate converting commercial premises into apartments

There is still a great demand for housing in London and major cities in the North and Midlands, with many building owners opting to convert office spaces into residential properties. This trend is becoming even more commonplace due to the long-term effects on working patterns from COVID-19.

The growth in converting obsolete commercial buildings into apartments shows no signs of slowing. Technological trends in home-working coupled with social changes in online shopping means an increasing number of buildings in town centres are becoming defunct. Supporting this, from the 1st September 2020, new permitted development rights came into force allowing the demolition and rebuilding of “vacant and redundant” office and light industrial buildings into homes, without requiring planning permission.


Whilst these well-positioned sites are not suited to their current use, they can be a prime opportunity to address the need for city living. As the notion of a head office wanes, the buildings are being turned from “departments into apartments”.


There is no maximum office block size or number of dwellings a building can be converted to. If you intend to use any unit as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), there are new minimum bedrooms sizes. From 6th April 2021 you will need to adhere to the minimum space standards.


DEMAND FOR RESIDENTIAL CONVERSIONS


One of the main attractions for buyers and renters is the price. Permitted Development homes are often the cheapest homes available, especially in cities. These homes often boast central locations, great for city workers.


They are also extremely attractive to buyers and renters due to the new furnishings and fittings installed.


CONVERTING OFFICES TO RESIDENTIAL UNITS WITHOUT PLANNING PERMISSION


The Government scheme, Permitted Development Rights (PDR) allows for certain changes of use to be carried out without applying for planning permission. This is called 'Class O Permitted Development Rights'.


Previously, PDR has been used by developers to create micro-flats that negatively impact on communities due to the lack of sufficient space, light and ventilation. However, in July 2020 PDR introduced a new rule that stated all habitable rooms in housing built or converted under Permitted Development must have natural light.


PRIOR APPROVAL APPLICATION


A prior approval application has to be made before carrying out the works for converting your office units into residential homes. Your application should include a full set of drawings and supporting documents that relate to transport and highway impacts, flood risks, contamination risks, noise and natural light.


As of 1st August 2020, property owners must supply floor plans as part of the application, including the provision for adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the property. This does not include bath or toilet facilities, service rooms, corridors, laundry rooms, hallways or utility rooms.

AS YOU TACKLE YOUR REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT SECURING AN ELECTRICAL SUPPLY?


INVESTIGATE THE EXISTING SUPPLY


In the initial stage of planning your building services, you will have a clear idea of how much power you need. Even if the footprint of your building remains the same, the load required by electrically heated apartments may be much bigger than its previous use.


- Does your premise have an existing supply?


o Find out whether a Power Supply Agreement is in place by contacting your Distribution Network Operator (DNO) with the MPAN (you will find this on your energy bill). This will confirm the capacity the site can pull from the network.

o Perhaps the previous supply has been disconnected. Even if you still have equipment within the building, the cable supplying the property may have been disconnected at the site boundary. You won’t be getting a bill and the disconnection will be easy to identify on the network plans (Rock Power Connections can do this for you).

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING SUPPLY THAT IS SUFFICIENT


Your DNO may be happy for you to repurpose the existing supply and undertake minor alterations to give you an intake with the load you require. Some of the existing electrical infrastructure may need to be removed and ‘stripped back’ to where the supply enters the building.


- You will need to apply to your DNO for a Point of Connection or a service alteration (we can do this for you).


- The property will originally have had only one meter whereas now you will require individual meters for each apartment, plus any landlord supplies you require. Your DNO should offer you multiple MPANs, but may not offer to do the installation between the intake and the meter points. Check your offer carefully.


- Regardless of whether you have a communal meter room or meters in the individual apartments, the internal installation (laterals and risers) will become the responsibility of the building owner. This is often termed a Building Network Operator (BNO) installation.

For more information on your installation options, read our article BNO installations: What are your options?


IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN EXISTING SUPPLY


Many vacant properties have had their electrical supply disconnected. Or perhaps the existing supply just isn’t sufficient and you need additional power. In this case, you will need a new electrical connection to your premise from the distribution grid.


- Apply for a Point of Connection from your DNO (we can do this for you) citing the total load you need and the number of metered points.


- Ensure there is sufficient space for any switchgear and distribution boards. All too often, minimal space is allowed in plant rooms and risers. We can help you with layouts so you can ensure everything fits.


- Explore your options for the installation.


o If you accept the DNO’s offer, they will adopt the network for you (although be aware that they don’t all do the internal installation works).


o If you accept the DNO’s offer up to the intake, but then use an electrical contractor for the internal submains, you will then be liable for the upkeep of the network and responsible for getting the power back on in times of failure. Read about the responsibilities of a BNO here.


o If you use an alternative provider (such as Rock Power Connections), we can get your entire installation adopted by an Independent Distribution Network Operator (IDNO) and you can get a financial payment (called an Asset Value) upon energisation. This can mean a very competitive offer and none of the future responsibility for the installation.


If you want to understand more about the different options for network owners, read more about DNOs and IDNOs and Asset Values.


HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?

With our experience and engineering knowledge, we successfully manage various ICP projects of varying size and scale nationwide.

By trusting Rock Power Connections with your new or upgraded electrical connection, you can rely on us to deliver your engineering solution on time and on budget.

All our customers work closely with their dedicated Rock Power Connections Project Manager to develop a programme of works that fits with their engineering requirements and is flexible to their needs.

We’d be delighted to offer you a free, no obligation, competitive quote for your electrical connection project. Please email Emma on Emma@rockpowerconnections.co.uk, call 01905 456384 or click here to submit your enquiry.

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