Plans to convert a disused office block into more than 100 flats have been resurrected as the government tries to get the country to build its way out of the coronavirus crisis.

The proposals would see the Halton 5 office block in Runcorn, near the shopping city, turned into 108 flats by Donacaster-based Empire Property Concepts.

The developer had originally proposed turning the block, previously called Grosvenor House, into 170 flats but withdrew its plans in December after Halton Council expressed concerns about the impact of the development on surrounding roads.

The revised proposals involve slashing the number of flats at the development, meaning fewer flats fall below the minimum space standards recommended by the government.

Only seven flats would not meet these standards under the new plans. The previous proposal would have meant a third of the flats at the development were smaller than recommended.

The plans for Halton 5 are covered by permitted development rights, which allow developers to convert disused office blocks into flats without applying for full planning permission, with councils only able to object on a very limited number of grounds.

The government announced last month that permitted development rights would be expanded as part of a drive to help the construction industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Boris Johnson dubbed the changes “Project Speed” and said they would make it easier to build “better homes where people want to live”.

But the use of permitted development rights to convert offices into flats has been criticised for preventing local councils from blocking unsuitable housing and depriving them of contributions from developers for affordable housing or infrastructure projects.

Residents have until July 30 to comment on the plans and the council aims to make a decision by August 28.