Council 'optimistic' about flat-to-home war with government after Pickles admits numbers wrong
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Local Government, Regulation
Council 'optimistic' about flat-to-home war with government after Pickles admits numbers wrongImage: Planning via Shutterstock
Islington Council believes a compromise can be reached with the government on halting unrestricted office-to-flats conversion in the borough, after Eric Pickles admitted his department got its numbers wrong.
In July 2013, Islington became the first local authority to make an Article 4 direction, which are designed to remove government-given rights for developers to convert offices to homes without planning permission.
However, though the council gave one year's notice of its decision, in line with legislation, then Planning Minister Nick Boles quashed the Article 4, arguing that Islington failed to deliver its housing targets over the period 2009-2013.
In fact, Islington exceeded its overall housing target by 43% over this period.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has now accepted that it made "a mistake of fact" by failing to take into account all the types of housing which the London Plan housing targets do.
The DCLG has agreed to rescind its decision to quash the Article 4 direction in the next few weeks.
The council claims that the Article 4 direction - originally intended for the entire borough, but since scaled back in an attempt to reach a compromise - is needed to prevent further loss of jobs and affordable homes.
The government's policy allows offices to be converted into flats without planning permission. Over the past year, high residential values in Islington have resulted in office tenants - including many small businesses and charities - being evicted to make way for private housing developments.
As planning permission is not required, developers do not have to offer any affordable housing or other community benefits.
The council's executive member for housing and development, councillor James Murray, said: "No-one would deny that London needs new homes. We are one of the top boroughs nationally for building new homes - we're actually building thousands of genuinely affordable homes for social rent.
"The government says its policy is about converting empty offices into homes. Yet in Islington, we can see the damaging effect this policy is having. We're losing jobs but getting lots of one-bed and bedsit flats, with no affordable housing or other community benefit.
"I am pleased Eric Pickles accepts his Department made a mistake, and I hope this means we can now have a proper discussion about how we can protect jobs and provide decent, affordable homes in Islington."
Responding Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: “The government’s permitted development reforms are providing badly needed homes, especially in London where there is a particularly acute need for more housing. These reforms are helping promote brownfield regeneration, protect the countryside and increase housing supply at no cost to the taxpayer.
"It is disappointing that Islington is using public funds to try to oppose new homes for Londoners. Their latest judicial review attempt relates to a technical point on housing numbers in London. We are happy to have a dialogue with the council on these issues, but we have been clear about the real need for more homes, especially in London.
“However, Islington Council are out of touch if they think more one-bedroom and studio flats in central London for young people are a bad thing.”