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EXCLUSIVE: Manchester's Powerful New Legal Clampdown On Resi Conversion

Manchester City Council is preparing to use a powerful piece of legislation to clamp down on the conversion of office and light industrial premises into residential schemes, Bisnow can reveal.

The Article 4 direction, which is expected to apply throughout the city centre and in other key locations, is in addition to the existing exemption for parts of the city centre under the permitted development rights rules which have operated since 2013.

The extended proposal would protect office space from residential conversion in a much wider area, matching the city centre boundary identified in the Strategic Plan for Manchester City Centre 2015-2018, as well as the Oxford Road Corridor, Hulme, Strangeways, Ancoats and New Islington.

Manchester Town Hall

Industrial floorspace would be protected from residential conversion in the north and east of the core city centre, including the area surrounding Piccadilly station, Ancoats and part of Oldham Road, the Irk Valley and Strangeways, a report posted on the council website said.

Proposals for the exemption are listed in the city council's register of forthcoming key decisions. The proposal states that the council expected to begin the process in March 2018.

The aim is "to give notice of introduction of Article  4 directions for office,
light industry and logistics in one year’s time. To begin a yearlong notice period for the introduction of Article 4 directions to manage the change of use from office, light industry and logistics to residential," the document said.

A justification for the new rules, posted on the city council website, said the existing Manchester exemption will continue to operate until May. It has effectively limited residential development in this area to just 13 units, with a further 474 having planning permission. In the same 2013-2018 period, 72 developments have claimed the permitted development right outside the restricted area, the report said.

CERT Property, the independent Manchester based property company, has been granted
approval of its plans to renovate Hilton House , a 35,000 sq ft office building in Manchester's
Northern Quarter.
CERT Property, the independent Manchester based property company, has been granted approval of its plans to renovate Hilton House, a 35K SF office building in Manchester's Northern Quarter.

Using a Direction under Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, a local planning authority can restrict the scope of permitted development rights in relation to defined areas. Its effect is to require an application to be made for permission for development proposals.

Today there is just one Article 4 direction in place to control planning in Manchester: It relates to houses in multiple occupation.

Private sector sources sounded a note of caution. “There are times when we need pragmatism on planning. Manchester has taken a stand on office-to-residential conversion and often it has been the right thing to do. We must be careful that flexibility doesn’t mean we end up with poor quality buildings – but all the same we do need flexibility,” Cushman & Wakefield Planning and Development Director Caroline Baker said.

The city council told Bisnow: "We are going through the consultation responses at the moment. We'll need to respond to those in the next few weeks before setting out the next steps."