Convert offices & retail space into homes without planning permission

In August 2021 the Government introduced a new class of permitted developments rights that enable offices and retail space to be converted into new homes without the need for planning permission.

The COVID pandemic has changed our lives forever, including the way we work. With flexible and remote working now the norm, a lot of office buildings are redundant. COVID has also accelerated the acceptance of online shopping and the demise of the traditional high street, again leaving retail premises sitting vacant. Given the current housing shortage, what better way than to use excess office and retail space than for housing?

Permitted development rights (PDRs) are a national grant of planning permission which allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without having to make a planning application, subject to conditions and limitations intended to protect local amenity. PDR has been extended to some high street asset classes in the hope that new homes will breathe new life into town centres in the absence of retail uses.

Even with PDR, in order to convert an office building to residential requires a prior approval application that needs to include a full set of drawings and detailed supporting documents covering the following:


  • Transport and highway impact of the development
  • Contamination risks
  • Flood risks
  • Noise i.e. from commercial premises on the residential occupants
  • Adequate natural light in all habitable rooms
  • Residential amenity provision of parking, bin and bike storage


Glanville has expertise in the requirements of PDR for offices to residential. We can assist with preparing supporting documents relating to the transport and highway impacts, contamination risks, and flood risks.


We are adept at devising creative solutions for bin and bike storage in communal areas of residential developments, which in town centre locations is not as easy as it is for office developments or retail uses, or for residential developments that are not in a town centre.


The provision of natural light is often a challenge with office blocks where there are large windows on the outside but no natural light in the inner parts. This may require structural changes to let more light in.


With businesses looking to save costs by reducing their office space, and floor space becoming vacant on the high street, the number of buildings ripe for conversion to residential is offering huge potential to developers and investors alike. The permitted development rights that grant planning permission without having to make a planning application facilitate this but the requirement for professional advice to ensure the potential is maximised remains.