A NORTH-EAST property consultancy firm has welcomed proposed changes to planning laws which could ease the national housing shortage.

The Government has introduced new legislation allowing the development of offices into housing without planning permission.

The changes come into effect later this year and will run for three years.

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Jennifer Hadland, from Smiths Gore, in Darlington, said: “This aims to ease the national housing shortage and could represent an attractive investment opportunity and may help promote increased economic activity.

“Where the commercial use of buildings has failed to deliver viability for owners, a change of use without the need to go through the normal planning process could create a lifeline for them while providing much needed housing.

“This is a small window of opportunity to make redundant or under-used buildings more profitable, and the legislation will allow a range of town centre buildings to be converted into a range of uses.”