The hidden value in industrial properties 


¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill 

¨La Fabrica¨, Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill 

-Planning Approach:


On 11th March, 2016, the Government made a number of Amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.  One of the most significant is the new permitted development right to allow conversions from light industrial (Class B1c) to residential (Class C3).

This new right will come into force on 1st October 2017 and it will be a temporary law, expiring in October 2020. 

Light industrial buildings are those that are used to produce or manufacture consumer goods such as footwear, household goods, electronic equipment, clothing, shoes or food, or any other goods which can be produced in any residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area, such as would be caused by noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit. So it is common to find light industrial properties located near or within residential zones. Some of these neighbourhoods, especially in London, are in the process of gentrification, which will make this type of conversion worth considering in the next few years.

There will be some exceptions and conditions: 

-Prior approval will be required. Key points for planners to consider will be: the impact of transport, the risk of contamination and flooding, and the sustainability of providing industrial property for that area.

-Permission will be restricted to buildings with a maximum gross floor area of 500 square metres. For larger areas, it might be worth exploring the possibility of making a full planning application and considering developing more than one residential unit.

-If the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, the landlord and the tenant have to agree in writing that the site is no longer required for agricultural purposes.

- Permission will not be given If the site forms all or part of a site of special scientific interest, a safety hazard area or a military explosives storage area or If building is a listed building or is within the curtilage of a listed building and the site is, or contains, a scheduled monument.

-The work must be completed within three years of the date of the prior approval.

It should also be noted that, until 1st October 2017, local authorities will apply Article 4 Directions to protect space for light industry in areas where it is needed.


¨Loft MDP¨Courtesy of FFWD

¨Loft MDP¨Courtesy of FFWD

-The Architectural & Technical Approach:


It should be remembered that in many cases these are buildings which were built using technology and standards of construction which were different from those of today, and that, more importantly, they were built for a different use and purpose. It is therefore worth checking:

1-The envelope:

Acoustic and thermal insulation and damp: In general, the whole envelope should be upgraded to comply with Building Regulations Document L1 B (conservation of fuel and power in existing dwellings) and to provide an efficient shelter which conforms to current standards of comfort and energy-saving requirements.


Standards have become quite strict in terms of thermal insulation following the UK´s Climate Change Act, which established a plan and a commitment to reduce carbon emissions substantially. It is advisable to budget for insulated internal finishes on walls which separate the internal habitable space from the exterior, and also to allow space for these finishes, which will result in an increased wall thickness.


To comply with the standards mentioned above it is highly likely that the roof will have to be upgraded as well. In industrial buildings, the existing roof was designed for a different purpose, and if it is not properly protected against damp, it will be easier and more cost-effective to replace the entire roof.

-Openings & Windows:

Whereas, when converting office buildings to residential ones, it is usual to find openings distributed in quite a regular way and peripherally round the building, industrial buildings might feature rather irregular patterns and sizes, and sometimes even a lack of existing openings or an abundance of them grouped in one façade, a situation which is far from ideal when we intend to convert them into residential units, and which causes a limitation internally on possible layouts.

It should also be noted that large glazed openings facing north might not be desirable because they would be too exposed to north cold streams while do not gain any solar radiation, resulting in a lack of this natural source of heat.  Document L1 B of the Building Regulations (conservation of fuel and power in existing dwellings) should also be taken into account.

Carrying out any modifications to the external envelope of an existing building is costly and could become a planning issue.

2-The Structure:

Steel structures in general will allow more internal flexibility than a concrete or a load-bearing wall structure. Internally located load-bearing walls could become an important issue and restrict the design and therefore the potential to achieve a satisfactory layout. Moreover, removing these or to re-arranging them can result in important additional costs.

Bear in mind that old structures, especially those made of timber, should always be surveyed to assess their existing condition, since they are subject to several pathologies and in certain cases do not age well, especially if they have been completely or partially exposed to damp.

Ceiling heights and internal space:

Industrial spaces, whether  large or small, have a wide range of floor heights, depending on the purpose for which they were created. The minimum head room for any residential space is 2.3m for at least 75% of the Gross Internal Area according to the National Housing Standards.

3-Drainage and waste disposal:

It is most probable that new toilets and bathrooms will be needed, so the number and the location of existing waste vent pipes is something essential to look at, also the proposed design has to comply with Building Regulations Document H (Drainage and Waste Disposal).

At this stage, check where waste pipes are located and how they are connected to the public sewer. This will reveal the feasibility of having additional bathrooms in the property and therefore the type and number of potential residential units.

4-Planning Policies:

It is advisable to check the property´s deeds and the relevant council planning policies with special reference to Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Article 4 Directions, to be confident that our building is not affected by any of these.

It is also worth investing some time to check the archive of planning applications made in the last five years (the archive is public and accessible). Pay particular attention to rejected applications and the reason why these were not approved. This will give you an insight into the way in which the local planning authority is implementing the current policies.

¨Houston Loft¨Courtesy of Content Architecture

¨Houston Loft¨Courtesy of Content Architecture

This is a simplified and informative guide that does not aim to cover all construction matters, but the cases presented above cover most of the situations that you could face. In case of doubt, always get in touch with a professional. 

This is a simplified  guide and is not a conclusive source of legal information. Land constraints might affect your development. A legal professional will be able to provide precise advice on this if needed.

We are always delighted to hear from you and to speak about your project