Commercial to Residential
Another form of disused building, but generally less rural in nature, is a commercial property. This could be a factory, a shop or a high street building or warehouse. Of course the building does not need to be disused, a Change of Use can also be applied for.
1 While a structure is often in place, it is usually the case that conversion isn’t necessarily as inexpensive as it my first appear. Specialist tradesmen may be required to deal with more complex issues that an existing building may throw up; altering floor heights to fit into planning requirements, for example. It is therefore sensible to approach a conversion with the alternative of a replacement building as a costing alternative. Additional requirements may also be in place in relation, for example, to U-Values that may be affected by the existing construction. Another example is the Community Infrastructure Levy. It is important to thoroughly research all of this before proceeding.
2 You will need to assess access to the property. An upstairs residence will have existing access. You will not be able to alter this without permission. Similarly, as most commercial properties are located in busy urban areas and town centres you will have to consider your own transport needs – can you park your car? But also, rights of way. Parking areas and access points will relate to the existing profile of the surrounding area. It is an area that will require close work with the Planning Department.
3 As you will have applied under the ‘Change of Use’ legislation, it is just that. The facade of the building and other external areas will be subject to planning permission as would any such alterations. You will therefore have to consider the costs involved of maintaining the look of the surrounding area.
4 With former commercial or industrial buildings it is often easier to get planning permission than out of use rural buildings, although Local Authorities are likely to prefer multiple occupancy units. Original features are often incorporated to maintain the building’s original identity and position in the fabric of the town’s evolution, or as Local Authorities put it, ‘retain the character of the building.’ www.property.org.uk/unique often has interesting opportunities and information from which you can learn.
5 You should consider the purchase of the property as it would be when complete: Do you like living here? Is it near enough to the train station? Is there a noisy nightclub next door? How near is it to the school?
6 A developer can claim back a proportion of VAT charged on the conversion of some buildings. If the owner retains the property for private residential use they can make a claim for the VAT under the DIY Builders Refund Scheme available from Customs and Excise. Check www.hmrc.gov.uk for the rules.
Your local council will have guidance notes and people from whom you can seek advice. Portsmouth Council have a helpful guidance leaflet.