This paper explores the challenges involved in planning the adaptation of the urban built environment. It approaches this subject by appraising a recently introduced national planning policy (the permission to convert office buildings into residential use without planning permission) in England. Drawing on interviews conducted with planning practitioners, it is possible to unravel the impact of this policy instrument at the coal face of the discipline. The office-to-residential conversion policy has removed the long-established process of local planning discretion in England in favour of a developer led planning policy. Consequently, there has been a tactical manipulation of additional planning tools, originally designed for other use, to re-exert influence at the local level by local planning authorities. Rather than greasing the wheels of office-to-residential conversion, the new policy has thrown a spanner in the works of a unique local planning process that was originally developed to manage urban change. The paper concludes by calling for local planners to reformulate their role in planning urban adaptation by reasserting their role as “market actors” through the development of city information models, the exploitation of professional communication networks and the transference of their own tacit knowledge.