LEGAL restrictions preventing offices on York's outskirts from being converted into residential properties are set to be lifted.

A City of York Council report has revealed that restrictive covenants were placed on to sale deeds for office developments at Clifton Moor in the 1980s, limiting the use to office only. The former York City Council imposed them when selling parcels of land.

But the report by Ian Floyd, director customers and business support, said that in more recent years, a number of these offices had only had partial tenancies and were considered by their owners to be difficult, if not impossible, to let.

"The quality of office accommodation that exists at Clifton Moor is by and large moderate to poor," he said. "Whilst there is increasing demand for city centre high quality office accommodation which is currently in short supply, at Clifton Moor the market has voted with its feet and there are a number of sites where CYC is being asked to vary or lift the covenants to convert them into residential schemes."

He said Clifton Moor was a key employment site and a reduction in office space across the city was a major concern, but there was an argument that lifting some restrictions could create more demand for the remaining space, which was currently under occupied.

"Legal advice has indicated that if the council refuses to vary the covenants, then landowners could appeal the decision at a tribunal under S 84 of the Law of Property Act 1925 where our decision may be overturned."

He said changes to the Planning Framework meant office-to-residential conversions no longer required planning permission, potentially leading to the loss of existing office accommodation.

"We are unable to exert much influence over this and a blanket lifting of the current restrictions at Clifton Moor could result in us losing space we cannot then get back if it is not carefully managed."

Instead, the council had developed a policy to set out principles applying to requests when the council received them, in order to manage the overall impact and attempt to drive as much quality into future housing developments and actively promote affordable housing.