PDR Schemes – What’s Next?
PDR schemes have been incredibly popular in the past few years. Many developers assume that the cost per square foot to construct is cheaper than building from scratch. There may not need to be foundation and structural works required, given that there is an existing structure in place.
Nevertheless, PDR comes with its own challenges and, as the number of office spaces available for conversion decreases, it is difficult to see what, if anything comes next for this type of scheme.
Current challenges associated with PDR Schemes:
PDR schemes have historically been attractive for buyer and renters as they were centrally located in town and city centres and close to public transport.
Developers should be aware that in popular locations, there could be a number of site access issues. Eventually, this can increase overall costs. Stocks constructed using deleterious materials such as asbestos could result in the rise of expenses.
Additionally, PDR schemes are a necessity born of a slow planning process, limited land that can be built on and an ever-growing population. However, converting a former office building is unlikely to be as successful as an architectural project. It is also unlikely to provide units as desirable as in a purpose-built residential block. Nevertheless, a large number of the PDR schemes are affordable and mid-market in nature and therefore the development costs, of which internal fixtures and finishes represent a notable proportion, are understandably lower. By contrast, new builds tend to be at the higher end of the market with consequently higher development costs. Therefore, in some instances, PDR schemes remain the favorable route to follow for developers.
It is likely that office to residential conversions will continue for as long as possible. Historically, however, we have seen developers converting centrally located office buildings surrounded by residential properties and close to public transport. Recently, we have seen PDR consents for office buildings that are on the edge/within business, commercial and retail parks. It is difficult to imagine the quality of life in the middle of these micro-locations. Additionally, in our opinion, even short-term renters are likely to seek alternative locations.
As an alternative, there has been some discussion around warehouses offering up the next opportunity for PDR schemes. There will be bigger or similar challenges in terms of architecture, aesthetics and suitability of location. This will impact the quality of schemes and these rights will end in the next couple of years unless extended.
Furthermore, at the end of 2019 the government announced at its party conference its new policy that homeowners/developers should be able to extend properties by two floors without obtaining planning permission – whilst we will have to see if this policy is enacted this is likely to herald a new wave of activity from developers and should create more short term opportunities.
The implementation of PDR was incredibly effective in creating attractive homes in central town and city locations. Whilst there are some obvious cost benefits, with depleted stock and usually, more complex sites being available in terms of location and building history it is more difficult to see the same level of benefits of PDR schemes for developers in the long term. Creative architectural thought in terms of layout and changes to facades, as well as experience, will be key in delivering the remain office stock into desirable homes that are fit for the 21st century.