New Homes v Office Space Retention - High Court Holds the Line

Relentless pressure for more new housing in urban areas tends to relegate to second place the need for office space in planning terms, and in some circumstances full planning permission is not needed to convert office premises to residential use. However, in one case, plans to demolish a former office building and replace it with a new luxury home were sent back to the drawing board by the High Court.

The three-storey townhouse was set in one of London's most expensive areas. After having been used as office space for many years, it had been devoted to storage in more recent times. The property's owner was refused permission for a basement extension by a planning inspector. However, the inspector granted consent for the property's change of use, demolition and residential replacement.

In upholding a neighbouring homeowner's challenge to that decision and quashing the consent, the Court found that the inspector had given insufficient weight to the possibility that the building could revert to office use. There was substantial demand for office space in the area and the change of use to residential would impact on the possibility of meeting that demand.