Arwel Griffith

Permitted destruction?

There has been an encouraging trend in recent years to convert tired, empty commercial properties into vibrant new homes.


The trend has the dual advantage of not only regenerating our town centres and creating new residential communities, but also helping local councils to fulfil their housing quotas.

But there are challenges. I have previously highlighted, for example, one potential problem relating to planning. Permitted developments are sometimes being allowed for the interior envelope of a building, but not the outside, which requires planning. With councils already under pressure from the weight of hefty planning backlogs, this will only lead to further serious delays.

A further challenge I have previously highlighted is one of unintended consequences. Turning commercial properties into smart residential homes means that in certain towns, office space is now in woefully short supply. That, in turn, is pushing potential employers away, which is an irony. Creating affordable homes in which people can live is, of course, vital. However, if in doing so, we drive potential employers and small businesses out of our towns, we run the risk of creating a new generation of ghost towns with no commerce.

Now before I get shouted down in flames for making sweeping generalisations, and while I agree that everyone deserves a roof over their head, some properties are being trashed and that can’t be right. Councils can’t absolve themselves of their responsibility to monitor the behaviour and use of those properties they buy, and to not do so — and causing others living close by to be affected — can’t be morally right.

I am sure the issue is more complicated than it seems, but prima facie, this is a situation that cannot be sustained. Whereas it is wholly appropriate for provision to be made for council tenants and affordable homes in any new development, developers and private tenants have the right to a little more protection and respect. If developers are put off developing, and buyers are dissuaded or prevented from buying, we will seriously impact our future housing plans, and there will be even greater numbers without a roof over their heads.

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