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Empty offices problem to be tackled

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has unveiled a raft of new measures that aim to make the planning process more straightforward to tackle the problem of empty and underused offices across the UK.

It is hoped the changes will help to bring disused buildings back into full-time use by converting them into residential spaces, while at the same time freeing up large expanses of land for the provision of new homes in order to beat the country's ongoing housing crisis.

Reforms announced by communities secretary Eric Pickles include the provision for disused buildings to be transformed into residential accommodation without the need for local authority permission.

This permitted development right is to be in force for the next three years and could see many towns and cities see homes springing up in areas of deprivation - complete with the latest in drylining technologies - over the coming months.

In addition, further reforms for rural communities are to include the right to convert agricultural buildings that are no longer required into other business uses without the need for planning permission.

He said: "Using previously developed land and buildings will help us promote economic growth, provide more homes and still ensure that we safeguard environmentally protected land.

"We are absolutely determined to support people striving to bring life back to their communities and high streets."

Last year, communities minister Don Foster unveiled a new £300 million fund from the DCLG as part of the government's Empty Homes scheme that will help in the refurbishment of up to 5,000 properties across the country.

Mr Foster commented at the time: "Empty homes blight communities, attract crime and rats and deprive people of available housing."

As such, landlords are also to be hit by new measures aimed at promoting lettings, with this group to be charged 150 per cent of the normal council tax rate for long-term empty properties from April. 

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