The government is facing a setback to its plans to allow landlords to convert offices to residential use without planning permission. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, was confident the new rules could be in place by this spring but he may now be forced to delay their introduction or face legal challenges Building Design reports.
Planning experts are warning that ministers must allow time for all the applications for exemption to be considered before proceeding or the government could leave itself open to a judicial review.
The list of local authorities seeking exemption, amid fears that large swathes of commercial property could be lost, has grown substantially. Birmingham and Liverpool have now joined Manchester and Sheffield in confirming they have submitted appeals.
In addition the majority of London Boroughs are believed to have submitted applications. According to CBRE only Croydon, Barking & Dagenham, Greenwich and Kingston have not sought exemption.
Simon Ricketts, of law form SJ Berwin says the difficulty now facing the government is that each submission must be assessed against its own criteria and this takes time. Furthermore, any local authority feeling a decision was inconsistent with others could take it to a judicial review.
“It could take the government longer than expected to process all of these applications. If there is a judicial review it could involve further delay,” he said.
Robin Shepherd, a partner at Barton Willmore, believes this prospect may now persuade the government to delay the implementation of the rules rather than face lengthy legal challenges.
The window for exemption submissions has now closed.