Fast-track apartments set to widen housing choices

Broadfield House in Cowley

Broadfield House in Cowley

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Business Editor. Call me on 01865 425460

A LANDMARK office building in Cowley is to be transformed into a major residential development.

Broadfield House in Between Towns Road was once the headquarters of the Potato Marketing Board and most recently home to 200 staff from publisher Macmillan Education who moved to a new London base in 2012.

Now work has started on a £4.5m project to transform the 27,882 sq ft property into 58 mainly one-bedroom apartments after it was sold to Thomas Homes.

The move has not needed planning permission as it is the latest commercial property being fast-tracked for residential use under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) Act, which became effective last year.

Thomas Homes director Chris Brotherton said: “What we are aiming at is the entry level of the Oxford market.

“Prices are so high and we have been trying to find a development where we can get people on the housing ladder.”

However, the new law on commercial conversions also means the development will bypass the normal requirement for 50 per cent of new home sites to be social housing.

Mr Brotherton added: “If we had to have affordable housing then it would not have been viable.

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“We are able to offer schemes such as the Government’s Help to Buy.

“There is massive demand for single occupancy housing in the city and it brings empty office buildings into another use.”

Work on the development, next to Templars Square shopping centre, has started and will be complete by the first quarter of next year.

Prices have not yet been set but Mr Brotherton said they would be between £150,000 and £200,000. Potential buyers will be able to buy off-plan from March this year.

Parking will be retained and Mr Brotherton said traffic movements will be lower under residential use.

Other properties set to be converted include offices in New Inn Hall Street, Oxford, while 1-20 Lakesmere Close in Kidlington is set to be converted into 18 houses and four apartments.

Richard Venables, director at VSL and Partners, Kidlington, said: “There is a significant surge in commercial to residential activity in Oxfordshire following the ‘permitted development rights’ introduced in May last year.

The Oxford Times:

Richard Venables

“We calculate that approximately 80,000 sq ft of secondary offices have applied for approval for conversion to residential in the Oxford area.

“Whilst reducing potential office stock, all of these buildings are either obsolete or in poor locations and unlikely to have let in the near to medium term.”

The law has partly been responsible for the supply of office accommodation dwindling from 400,000 sq ft to 300,000 sq ft in the last year.

Nick Berrill, director of business space at agents Savills, said: “There is now a real shortage of Grade A space in Oxford, an example being Oxford Science Park where there is no office space currently available.”

Comments (8)

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11:19pm Thu 6 Feb 14

WestQuarterJ says...

Good, although not the nicest view if you aren't on the top floor. What about the Cooper Callas site? Prime real estate in the middle of town, going to rot. It's identified for development in the local plan, there should be some tax incentives to make landowners get on with development or sell to someone who will.
Good, although not the nicest view if you aren't on the top floor. What about the Cooper Callas site? Prime real estate in the middle of town, going to rot. It's identified for development in the local plan, there should be some tax incentives to make landowners get on with development or sell to someone who will. WestQuarterJ
  • Score: 4

8:50am Fri 7 Feb 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

This must be one of the few recent residential property developments in Oxford that will have a fair and reasonable number of parking spaces with more than 1 parking space per planned bedroom!

The local Greens must be absolutely furious.

Still...

Given the derelict appearance of the (outside of the) adjacent Cowley Police station and shortage of parking there, I do wonder if an important opportunity was missed.
This must be one of the few recent residential property developments in Oxford that will have a fair and reasonable number of parking spaces with more than 1 parking space per planned bedroom! The local Greens must be absolutely furious. Still... Given the derelict appearance of the (outside of the) adjacent Cowley Police station and shortage of parking there, I do wonder if an important opportunity was missed. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -2

9:29am Fri 7 Feb 14

lukewarmdog says...

"we have been trying to find a development where we can get people on the housing ladder.”

Mr Brotherton added: “If we had to have affordable housing then it would not have been viable.

So that will be the good old non-affordable housing ladder then.
"we have been trying to find a development where we can get people on the housing ladder.” Mr Brotherton added: “If we had to have affordable housing then it would not have been viable. So that will be the good old non-affordable housing ladder then. lukewarmdog
  • Score: 1

12:37pm Fri 7 Feb 14

hatofthecat says...

Its about time the uppity Lefties realised that imposing the grubby little "affordable housing" TAX does nothing more than slow down building of new homes and make them more expensive for all.
Its about time the uppity Lefties realised that imposing the grubby little "affordable housing" TAX does nothing more than slow down building of new homes and make them more expensive for all. hatofthecat
  • Score: -2

2:33pm Fri 7 Feb 14

EMBOX2 says...

Since when is £150k affordable? Nonsense.

An "affordable" house in Oxfordshire should be between 4 and 5 times annual average salary (£18k).
Since when is £150k affordable? Nonsense. An "affordable" house in Oxfordshire should be between 4 and 5 times annual average salary (£18k). EMBOX2
  • Score: 0

5:33pm Fri 7 Feb 14

King Joke says...

Average salary is £22k these days, but yes this kind of calculus should be used in the definition of 'affordable'.

Cat-in-the-Hat, if you honestly think lifting the regulations would generate any more affordable housing, you're a naive twit. Developers want to maximise profit, which means selling at a top price to those who can afford it eg BTL landlords.
Average salary is £22k these days, but yes this kind of calculus should be used in the definition of 'affordable'. Cat-in-the-Hat, if you honestly think lifting the regulations would generate any more affordable housing, you're a naive twit. Developers want to maximise profit, which means selling at a top price to those who can afford it eg BTL landlords. King Joke
  • Score: 0

11:45pm Fri 7 Feb 14

hatofthecat says...

"affordable housing" quotas are just pathetic attempt at social engineering. There is not some infinite pool of buy to let landlords out there. The market will decide prices not some sanctimonious lefty.
"affordable housing" quotas are just pathetic attempt at social engineering. There is not some infinite pool of buy to let landlords out there. The market will decide prices not some sanctimonious lefty. hatofthecat
  • Score: 0

8:17am Mon 10 Feb 14

King Joke says...

The pool may not be infinite, but there are plenty of people out there who by no more than accident of birth, got onto the housing ladder at the right time to make a killing - and I include myself in that bracket. Whether they are BTL landlords (subsidised by tax breaks - pretty sanctimonious to let this continue) or just people buying a larger property, they can outbid people at the bottom whom local employers need to move to the area. The economy needs affordable housing to function.
The pool may not be infinite, but there are plenty of people out there who by no more than accident of birth, got onto the housing ladder at the right time to make a killing - and I include myself in that bracket. Whether they are BTL landlords (subsidised by tax breaks - pretty sanctimonious to let this continue) or just people buying a larger property, they can outbid people at the bottom whom local employers need to move to the area. The economy needs affordable housing to function. King Joke
  • Score: 2

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