Policy HOU2 The Conversion or Change of Use of Existing Buildings to Flats or Apartments
The conversion or change of use of existing buildings to flats or apartments (including those for multiple occupancy30) will be permitted where Policy HOU1 Quality in New Residential Development in Settlements, and all the additional criteria set out below are met:
the proposal maintains or enhances the form, character and architectural features, design and setting of the existing building;
the original property is greater than 150 square metres gross internal floorspace in the case of sub-division of an existing dwelling;
all flats or apartments are self contained (i.e. having separate bathroom, w.c. and kitchen available for use only by the occupiers);
the development does not contain any flat or apartment which is wholly in the rear of the property and without access to the public street;
adequate refuse storage space (large enough to allow for the separation of recyclable waste) is provided; and
proposals above shops and other business premises do not prejudice the operations of any commercial business below.
Justification and Amplification
The conversion and reuse of existing buildings for residential use is often a more sustainable form of development than new build or redevelopment, as it makes use of existing materials and services. Additional benefit is likely to be gained where the original building is established in a sustainable location, such as a town centre. This policy therefore supports initiatives such as ‘Living Over the Shop’ which can provide a useful source of affordable rented housing, contribute to the vitality and viability of town centres and reduce dependency upon the private car. However, it is important to ensure that where properties are converted, there is no adverse effect on the local character, environmental quality or residential amenity of the surrounding area and they provide adequate amenity for any future occupiers. For example, as a result of increased density, overlooking, increased traffic congestion, and the loss of family sized housing.
To ensure that individual dwellings are appropriate for conversion, a minimum size limit is placed on dwellings which will be permitted for conversion to flats or apartments. At some locations within designated town centres and sites adjacent to main public transportation nodes, the conversion of existing buildings to flats or apartments may be appropriate where an existing property is less than 150m² gross internal floorspace. In such cases a more flexible approach to the floorspace requirement in the policy may be applied.
The usual residential design requirements such as layout, scale, massing and amenity should be carefully considered to ensure a quality residential environment is achieved when converting and/or sub dividing an existing building. Adequate amenity space should be provided in accordance with the ‘Creating Places’ design guide (DOE/DRD 2000). Appropriate refuse and recycling storage areas should be designed as an integral element of the development accessible to all residents and screened from amenity space and the public realm to safeguard amenity. Proposals involving extensions and alterations are required to be consistent with Policy HOU3 Residential Extensions and Alterations.
Where a proposal involves the conversion or subdivision over an existing commercial business the ground floor use should be compatible in terms of providing a suitable living environment for the residents above. Equally, the residential use should not disrupt the functions of the ground floor business to protect the economic vibrancy of the area. For such proposals above commercial businesses in town centres, a flexible approach will be applied to car parking provision having regard to the circumstances of each case.