Turn and face the change

Published March 2nd, 2016

The opportunity to change the use of a property to reflect economic and demographic change has always been with us. One only has to look above the modern shop fronts in most town centres to see that some buildings were constructed for a different purpose. On the roads into our town and city centres many a grand house subsequently became an office, a hotel or perhaps a care home.  However, in recent years the pressure for change has more likely been back to residential.

Despite the inevitable economic cycles, demographic changes have resulted in a steady improvement in the occupational demand for housing.  This has resulted in a continued rise in residential sale values and now rents. For reasons that have been extensively debated, market-led construction cannot keep pace with demand. This trend is likely to continue and Northamptonshire has traditionally experienced improved demand from developers as prices in the capital ripple northwards, aided by the county’s excellent road and rail networks.

At Berrys we have advised property owners and developers on the opportunities created by these changes and have sold numerous important residential sites in the area.  We have continued to provide planning and development advice on all types of sites and undertake viability appraisals for schemes small and large.

The easing of planning regulations in recent years recognised the pressure for change, sought to encourage the provision of new housing and relaxed the need for formal planning applications on some extensions to existing dwellings. The temporary extension of Permitted Development Rights for change of use from offices to residential initially had a significant effect only in the areas of higher house prices but is now a significant feature of the local market.  With 1960s and 70s office buildings out of favour with commercial users, residential development is now the most likely option and Berrys is currently dealing with several substantial office and commercial buildings where the bulk of serious interest is from residential developers. This mirrors the situation experienced 10 or more years ago when multi-storey factories across the region were being converted for residential use. In both cases the result for the market was a loss of commercial floor space.

For retail property there has been pressure to convert upper floors to provide much-needed town centre flats. Berrys has advised clients with national portfolios of retail property on the conversion of residential upper parts and has managed the planning and construction projects to completion, resulting in much improved income streams at a time when there was downward pressure on shop rentals.

The pressure for change of use in town centres is likely to continue if the trend for multiple retailers to migrate from town centres and the growth of online shopping continues. Variation of uses in what were predominantly shopping streets is likely to continue.

Berrys’ multi-disciplinary team will be pleased to provide advice on change of use whether commercial, residential or agricultural and if you require advice in these areas please contact either Simon Parsons or Stephen Edwards in the first instance on 01536 517777.

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More about Simon Parsons

BSc (Hons) MRICS
Head of Commercial Agency
Tel: 01536 213169

Simon has over 18 years’ experience as a Chartered Surveyor, with a career that started in London with DTZ and took him to Europe working with international clients. He has also worked on the client side of the profession as a commercial developer.

Simon has unrivalled and diverse knowledge of commercial property across the UK and overseas. He specialises in and has advised a wide range of major corporate clients on commercial agency, acquisition, valuation and occupier solutions and works for property companies and high profile corporate occupiers alike. His niche skillset includes debt recovery solutions which he applied during the downturn in the economy.