Another office building in Basingstoke’s ‘upper town’ has succumbed to residential apartment conversion under the Government’s Permitted Development Rights (PDR) legislation.
Initially this measure was seen as a positive step towards extending the life cycle of poorer quality, under parked office buildings – examples being the Sun Alliance House building at the bottom of Wote Street which now provides town centre living accommodation within what had become redundant office space.
However, the PDR sector has gathered momentum as the values of these apartments have increased. As a result, virtually any freehold offices that now come on stream for sale will attract the attention of apartment conversion specialists.
St Pancras House, comprising 5,600 sq ft of office space over 2 floors, together with undercroft parking, was sold following a ‘best bids’ scenario in May this year. The highest bid of over £1 million was accepted and was dependent upon the ability to not only convert the offices, but also the undercroft parking area.
There is growing concern within the commercial property market over the loss of office stock to the PDR market, but this doesn’t appear to have been recognised by the Government, or indeed some local planning authorities. Not only are we seeing the loss of some key and relatively modern office buildings, but there is now a growing trend for offices which are occupied under short leases, to be sold for conversion in advance of when the leases are due to expire. There is little argument now that Basingstoke’s ‘upper town’ is seeing a critical mass of office accommodation being lost. At worst, this will ultimately reduce the viability of the location as a thriving economic sector of the town.
Furthermore, many (if not all) of the office buildings sold for PDR conversion have not required a social housing element to be provided. Under the normal planning requirements, these schemes should have provided a supply of new affordable housing, or at least, financial contributions towards off-site community provision – a loophole which has been exploited without hesitation by many.
The big questions are where (or when) will this cycle end and where will small and ‘professional’ businesses who are very content with their ‘upper town’ business location, end up in the future?