Making a home sweet home from former shops, pubs and offices
The Government may relax the rules on changing commercial property to residential but what are the chances of making an office or a pub your home? Sharon Dale reports.
CONVERTING commercial property into homes could become easier after the government announced plans to relax strict rules that prevent change of use.
The consultation period on the proposed planning policy is over and an announcement is expected soon.
The National Association of Estate Agents welcomes the idea, which is designed to help tackle the housing shortage.
Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the NAEA, says: “Theoretically, the Government’s decision to bring in this crucial change to planning regulation will provide a much cheaper alternative to new build properties.
“It will also go some way to solving the problems that commercial property owners face, particularly those being hit with high business rates for buildings that no-one occupies.”
The change could be good news for developers who may be able to turn redundant shops and offices into apartments, but for individuals who fancy a project, opportunities may be few and far between, according to Tony Webber, of Leeds-based auctioneers Eddisons.
“Something like a pub might be a good option but we certainly don’t see much at auction that would make good residential.”
Lucinda Spencer of pub sale specialists Sidney Phillips, York, is circumspect and says her company would rather that pubs stay pubs.
“They do lend often lend themselves to conversion but I would discourage it as they are a community facility and once they’re gone that’s it,” she says.
“But if you do want change of use then it’s easier to get if the pub is closed and it’s been on the market for a long time.”
One of the best sources of commercial property with residential potential is from the public sector, which is selling off its assets to cope with spending cuts.
Bruton Knowles has a number of redundant North Yorkshire County Council buildings for sale, including former social services offices in Haxby, near York, and offices in a three-storey Georgian building in French Gate, Richmond. Starbeck Library in Harrogate is also on the market for £250,000.
Richard Johnson, of Bruton Knowles, says: “You stand a better chance of getting change of use if properties were originally built for residential use, which is the case with the Richmond and Haxby properties. If they are in a residential area that is also an advantage.
“With Starbeck Library you are not depriving the area by changing it into residential property as the council have relocated the library in a more modern building nearby.”
Before buying a commercial property the National Association of Estate Agents advises that you look before you leap. Banks may not be happy to lend on them and gaining planning permission for change of use could still be problematic concern even after a relaxation of the rules.
Local authorities are protective over commercial buildings and are not keen to lose the employment opportunities they offer.
The best argument against this is proving that the building is no longer viable for commercial use.
Peter Bolton King, of the NAEA adds: “We also advise that a thorough evaluation of the work involved is carried out beforehand. Fitting out an existing property might seem like the cheaper option, but commercial space often requires more skilled labour to comply with standards for residential use, therefore adding to the overall cost of a project
“Those looking for potential sites for conversion will need to consider the location of the property, particularly since the amenities you might find in a residential area may well be lacking. And they must also factor in the additional costs involved with existing building covenants.”
He also recommends the following: “Given that a lot of commercial property is situated within town centres where zoning restrictions can affect parking and access routes, it is important to look at this before purchasing. You don’t want to create your dream home, only to find you have to walk several miles to get to your car, or worse still, pay hefty parking charges each year.”
POTENTIAL: Willow Tree House, a former council offices in Haxby, near York, is for sale for £225,000 and has 3,300 sq ft of space. The property was originally built for residential use, which can help with getting a change-of-use. Contact: Bruton Knowles, tel: 0845 200 6489, www.brutonknowles.co.uk
Top left and right, the former Starbeck Library, near Harrogate, has a guide price of £250,000, and former council offices at 91 Frenchgate, Richmond, £285,000. Contact: Bruton Knowles, www.bruton knowles.co.uk. Bottom Left and Right: The Travellers Rest, Long Riston, near Hull, £190,000, and White Bear, near Barnsley, £165,000, may convert to homes subject to planning. Contact: Sydney Phillips, www.sydneyphillips.co.uk