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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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

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