Nick Boles' 'ill-founded' intervention will cost jobs and affordable homes, rages council
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Development, Local Government
Nick Boles' 'ill-founded' intervention will cost jobs and affordable homes, rages councilImage: Office via Shutterstock
Planning Minister Nick Boles has blocked a local authority's attempt to prevent empty office space being turned into flats.
And Islington Council has raged that Boles' “ill-founded, eleventh-hour intervention" which will mean that the borough will lose out on jobs and affordable homes.
Last year, Islington Council became the first local authority in the country to make an Article 4 direction to remove permitted development rights (PDRs) to convert from office to residential.
Introduced by the coalition in May 2013, PDRs allow developers to convert office space into homes without having to apply for planning permission.
However, Islington Council's Article 4 direction would have removed PDRs across the whole borough from tomorrow (15 July).
But last week, Boles revoked the council’s directions - citing incorrect figures in his reasons for doing so.
The council insists the move was necessary to protect valuable business and office space across Islington from "being lost as developers seek to profit from high house prices" and to ensure that any conversions that go ahead include affordable housing.
In February, Boles told parliament that he felt the council had applied the Article 4 direction “disproportionately” and wrote to the local authority asking for the geographical area covered to be reconsidered.
However, the council has claimed that since then the minister has failed to enter into a dialogue with it about what he would be willing to agree to.
The council says it has also submitted revised plans restricting the Article 4 direction to areas where businesses are most concentrated, rather than trying to secure the complete exemption of the borough that it originally sought. Despite this, the council had not reply from Boles before last week's announcement.
Islington has already seen 68 office buildings obtain 'prior approval' for conversion to residential accommodation since the law changed last year. A further 11 applications have been additionally been submitted.
According to the council, the total loss of office space is around 45,000 square metres, which it says equates to around 3,000 jobs, and in some cases, small businesses and charities have been evicted.
Of the homes created in the former offices, the council estimates that two out of every three is a one-bedroom unit or a bedsit.
The council as pointed out that no affordable housing has been created by the conversions, despite the "potential to deliver around 350 affordable homes".
The council's executive member for housing and development, councillor James Murray, said: "I'm very frustrated by the planning minister's decision to stop us doing what's right for Islington.
"We're already seeing small businesses and charities being evicted from offices to make way for bedsits. People in Islington are losing out on jobs, affordable housing, and any community benefit.
"I'm also very disappointed that the planning minister waited until the eleventh hour to overturn our decision, refused to accept a compromise we offered, and in his reasoning got his figures wrong. Islington has consistently greatly exceeded its housing targets and is set to continue to do so.
"In Islington we already have successful plans for building good quality, affordable housing. But the government's changes are undermining what we're trying to do by allowing developers to bypass these plans."