PLANS to give developers more power to convert buildings into flats without planning permission have been described as “delusional” by the chair of Bradford’s Civic Society.

In a recent announcement Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a number of measures to help the country recover from the Covid 19 pandemic.

This included expanding the range of buildings that developer can convert to housing or flats without the need for planning permission.

So called ‘permitted development’ was set up by the Conservative government to encourage more development and housing delivery by cutting the red tape of the planning process.

It currently applies to empty office units, and in recent years has seen a number of buildings converted into flats without the need for planning permission. 

It means local authorities such as Bradford Council have little power to prevent such developments.

Poor quality flats in office buildings are 'bane of our life' - according to housing standards team

The policy has proved controversial - with many pointing to developments in Bradford that have seen tiny, poor quality flats built in the city. At a Council meeting earlier this year, housing standards officers described permitted development as “the bane of our life.”

Under new guidelines, buildings such as shops will now fall under permitted developments - meaning high street stores could become residential accommodation without the need for planning permission.

Announcing the changes, the PM said: “New regulations will give greater freedom for buildings and land in our town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.

“Under new rules, existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily, in a move to kick start the construction industry and speed up rebuilding.”

Si Cunningham, Chair of Bradford Civic Society, has previously criticised the number of poor quality flats that have been created through permitted development. On the Government’s new announcement he said: “Personally speaking I think these latest plans are a little bit delusional, and for all the bluster about “levelling up”, I can’t really fathom how relaxing planning regulations will help places like Bradford.

“I know that the prime minister’s senior advisor struggles with his eyesight sometimes, so perhaps he hasn’t seen the harm that permitted development is causing to our city centres. 

“In Bradford we are already seeing poor quality office buildings being turned into cramped studio flats with virtually no local scrutiny. How is this going to help revive the high street when nobody wants to live in these shoddy conversions? 

“If the government is really serious about helping Bradford it should commit to creating jobs here – moving a government department to the city – and guaranteeing a city centre station on the northern powerhouse rail line. “