The regulation of housing quality has a long history in England. In recent years, urban planning regulation has been increasingly blamed for constraining the supply of housing, with a market fundamentalist approach to resolving the ‘housing crisis’ taking hold. In 2013, this led to the government deregulating the conversion of office buildings to residential use so that this change of use could take place without needing planning permission (as ‘permitted development’). Drawing on research into the implications of this policy, Ben Clifford explores the consequences in terms of an increased number of conversions but problems of housing quality and location resulting as well as financial and opportunity costs. Clifford argues that although there are potential sustainability benefits from adaptive reuse, and the future may see increased pressure for office-to-residential conversion in many cities, there have to be adequate governance structures in place to avoid disbenefits including potential health and wellbeing impacts for future residents.

Ben Clifford is an Associate Professor at the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. He is a geographer-planner with research interests in the reform of the planning system in the UK and its relationship with the modernisation of the state, governance of the built and natural environment, planning professionalism, public engagement in planning, devolution and planning, planning implementation, the local state, and consequences of deregulation of planning. As well as scholarly book and journal publications, he has written a number of blogs on planning reform. His research on permitted development has been widely cited in the print media, by a parliamentary select committee and by the broadcast media. Ben’s teaching focuses on the operation and practices of the statutory planning system in the UK. He is also the postgraduate tutor with overall responsibility for Masters education within the Bartlett School of Planning.


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13 September 2022