Local authorities are assessing the safety of residential blocks built under permitted development rights (PDR) in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire – but admit they are powerless to enforce safety measures in such buildings.
Property Week contacted the 50 local authorities that have seen the highest number of PDR office-to-residential conversions in the last five years to ask what they were doing to check the safety of tower blocks in the private sector.
The majority of respondents said they were aware of, or had recommended, safety checks on private sector tower blocks.
However, many said they were powerless to enforce safety measures on PDR buildings as checks were currently conducted by private sector building inspectors approved by the Construction Industry Council instead.
Other councils, such as Lambeth and Brighton & Hove, said they had invoked Article 4 of the Town & Country Planning Act to block PDR developments on grounds including safety.
There are no official figures available from either local authorites or the Department for Communities and Local Government to show how many residential tower blocks in the private sector have undergone safety checks, or how many have failed them.
Richmond upon Thames council has expressed doubts over the safety surrounding PDR conversions.
“Building control would not have seen many of the completed office-to-residential conversions due to the fact that approved inspectors can sign off compliance with building regulations,” a spokesman said.
“Richmond council is actively lobbying the government to amend the General Permitted Development Order to allow full consideration of all the planning issues and matters, and to consider proposals against the full set of planning policies, including national and local guidance.”
Another London council that has expressed concerns over residential blocks developed under PDR is Croydon, which has one of the highest concentration of PDR conversions inthe capital.
In Hertfordshire, Dacorum Borough Council is seeking reassurance about the former head office of Kodak in Hemel Hempstead, now known as the KD Tower.