In May 2013 the government scrapped the need to get planning permission to convert offices into flats for the next three years, and in October 2015 this was made permanent..
This means that prior approval to convert B1(a) commercial property to C3 homes is granted immediately under permitted development rights as long as specified aspects (such as transport and highway impacts, and contamination and flooding risks) are checked first.
- BBC News, 19 December 2013: “The rush to turn offices into flats”
In that news item, officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government suggest that it might result in as few as five extra conversion projects a year across the whole of England, but so far there have been nine applications in Headington alone, eight of which have been approved, while the most recent is pending.
The reference number of all such applications in Oxford has the suffix “B56” .
2014 (two applications)
John Leon House, 138–140 London Road
Approval was granted to Fisepa 187 Ltd of Headington relating to the offices above the Skipton Building Society for “Change of use from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to provide 2 x 1-bed flats” in July 2014:
74 Lime Walk
This property was a shop from at least 1891, but in its latter years was an office. Approval was granted to Linfield Construction (the occupiers of the building) for “Change of use of ground floor from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to form 1 x 2-bed flat” in January 2015:
2015 (one application)
The twelve two-bedroomed flats on the first and second floors of Kennett House (above the block with Iceland/HSBC + two charity shops) are now occupied. They were advertised by Scott Fraser at a rent of £1,500 each per month.
In 2015 the city council granted prior approval to Clerkenwell Properties Ltd for the change of use, and work started in October that year and was completed in June 2016. These flats are excluded from eligibility for residents' parking permits.
A second application was also approved for “Installation of render system to front, side and rear elevations. Replacement and alterations of windows at first and second floors. Formation of parapet to flat roof”:
- Approved application 15/01593/FUL (render, windows, etc.)
A third planning application submitted in August 2015 (15/02323/FUL) for “Erection of a third storey to create 4 x 2-bed flats (Use Class C3) with associated terraces to front, side and rear elevations. Provision of bin and cycle store and rear external means of escape” was withdrawn in October 2015.
These offices, most recently occupied by Oxford Brookes University, have had many uses, including serving as the Driving Test Theory Centre for Oxford until c.2003.
The freehold of Kennett House was sold to Clerkenwell Properties for £2,500,000 on 3 December 2012 at an Allsop auction (title ON7396). The shops on the ground floor comprise the HSBC Bank, Iceland, and two charity shops. The longest remaining lease is that of Bejam, which underlets its shop to Iceland: this 63-year lease dating from Christmas Day 1963 does not revert until 2026.
- Oxford Mail, 29 November 2013: “Prime commercial site in Headington on market for £2.2m”
2016 (five applications)
Nielsen's, which has been on its present site on the London Road near the Thornhill Park & ride for 60 years, sold their 12-acre site to developers in 2016 and will be moving to the Oxford Business Park by early 2018.
Prior approval was granted to Headington Developments Ltd in December 2016 for “Change of use of Nielsen House and annex from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to provide 30 x 1-bed flats and 63 x 2-bed flats”.
An earlier application was rejected because the developer provided insufficient information relating to flooding and contamination risks:
- Refused application 16/01394/B56
- Oxford Mail, 25 July 2016: “Plans to convert office complex on edge of Oxford into 93 flats”
- Oxford Mail, 2 January 2017: “Converting offices into homes could open floodgates for more development along A40 at Oxford, warns Risinghurst councillor”
Offices above 114 London Road
Prior approval was granted to Mr M. Ahmed of Harberton Mead in relation to this office above the Cancer Research UK charity shop at 114 London Road in May 2016. It was for “Change of use from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to provide 1 x 2 bedrooms flat.”
The office is currently occupied by Absolute Events Solutions.
Offices above former Morrison's, 73 & 75 London Road
Prior approval was granted to Venables Property Services relating to the offices on the top two floors of 73 & 75 London Road (Charterford House) n November 2016. This is for “ Change of use of first and second floors from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to 2 x 1-bed and 2 x 2-bed apartments.”
This was a resubmission of an earlier application, this time with corroborating evidence that the buildings were within a lawful B1a office use:
Upstairs and rear of The Hub, 125 London Road
Prior approval was granted to Mr Farooq Ghulam in October 2016 relating to the Headington Hub at 125 London Road. This was for “Change of use of part ground floor and second floor from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to 2 x studio flats and 1 x 1-bed flat”:
The first application, submitted on 10 August 2015, was refused because of parking and refuse arrangements. It was for: “Change of use from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to provide 2 x studio flats (Use Class C3) and 1 x 2 bed flats (Use Class C3)”:
The second application submitted on 21 December 2015 was approved. It is for: “Change of use from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to provide 2 x studio flats and 1 x 1-bed flat”:
Premises above Savers
Prior approval was granted to Farcastle Ltd in October 2016 for “Change of use of part first floor from office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to provide 1 x 2- bed flat and 1 x studio flat”:
The situation is complicated here, as planning permission was obtained in 2011 to turn part of the premises above 112 London Road into a dance studio (D2), so it the upstairs is not simply a B1 office. Oxford’s first pole dance school, the Dance Inspires Studio, moved into the former QB Management offices at 112 London Road (above what is now Savers) in January 2011, and in October 2011 obtained retrospective planning permission (11/02146/FUL) for “Change of use of office at first-floor level to dance studio”.
An earlier full planning application by Farcastle Ltd for “Change of use of first floor office accommodation/dance studio (Use Class B1/D2) to 1 x studio flat, 1 x 1-bed flat and 1 x 2-bed flat (Use Class C3). Provision of bin and cycle store (amended plan)” was refused on 10 June 2016 on seven grounds, including that it would result in the loss of employment-generating floorspace and a cultural facility:
2017 (one application so far)
Kingsway House, 77a–81C London Road
Prior approval was granted to London & Cambridge Properties for “Change of use of from office at first floor level (Use Class B1(a)) to residential (Use Class C3) to provide 2 x 2-bed flats”. This office, occupied by Ferguson Bricknell Solicitors, is on the first floor above Coco Noir, The Garden, and the Cancer Research UK charity shop.