Dozens of unused office blocks in Milton Keynes should be turned into much-needed housing, says city MP

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The move would help homeless people, he says

Unused offices and commercial premises all over MK should be converted into housing to help the homeless, says city MP Ben Everitt.

He this week launched a special report on how ‘commercial to residential’ conversions could ease the country’s problem of homelessness.

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As a result, homelessness minister Felicity Buchan is to visit Milton Keynes to meet local housing charities and see for herself how many unused premises there are.

Station Square is one example of how office to residential conversions have already happened in Milton KeynesStation Square is one example of how office to residential conversions have already happened in Milton Keynes
Station Square is one example of how office to residential conversions have already happened in Milton Keynes

Ben, who is MP for Milton Keynes North, chairs the Housing Market and Housing Delivery All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and sits on the APPG for Ending Homelessness, which launched a joint inquiry on the topic.

Following months of evidence-collecting and consultations with key witnesses, the report was launched in Parliament yesterday (Monday) – and it revealed that 20,000 extra properties across the country could be made available through conversion.

Homelessness charity Crisis spoke at the launch about the role conversions can play in reducing homelessness, and Ben later highlighted this in the House of Commons.

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He said: “The best way to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness is to increase the supply of houses for people to live in.

“A joint report released by the APPG for Housing Market and Housing Delivery, which is chaired by me, and the APPG for Ending Homelessness, has found that there are 20,000 houses that we could bring onto the market through conversions.

“Will she (Felicity Buchan) meet with me and one of my local charities who are very keen on doing this to discuss how we can take this forward?”

The housing minister responded: “I would be delighted to come to Milton Keynes to meet with you and your local charities.”

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She added: “I want to reassure the Honourable Gentleman that this Government is absolutely committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing and to ensure that all houses are of a safe and decent standard.

“I look forward to reading in detail the recommendations of the APPGs.”

Some unused office blocks in Central Milton Keynes have already been converted to apartments and more are in the pipeline.

Currently developers can carry out some office to residential conversions under the government's 'permitted rights' legislation and do not need to apply to the council for planning permission.

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But MK City Council is not always happy about this, saying it can lead to poor quality conversions, and last year they drerw up a special order insisting that developers apply for full planning permission in the Central Business District of Central Milton Keynes instead of using permitted rights.

Labour council leader Pete Marland said at the time: "We aren’t against all office conversions, but we are against those that are done badly.”

One of the most controversial examples of conversions in CMK was Station Square, where offices above the Central rail station were made in 200 flats.

Pete described these flats as "poky", saying they were sited above an "exceptionally busy and noisy railway station" and have windows that do not even open.