Council moves to stop offices being turned into flats
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Development, Housing
Council moves to stop offices being turned into flatsImage: Office via Shutterstock
A London borough council is set to discuss proposals to extend planning restrictions to prevent developers from converting office space into residential use without planning permission.
Last year the government agreed to relax planning rules, allowing automatic conversions of offices to residential premises with just prior notification to the local authority rather than planning consent.
But the measure is already having a detrimental effect on the local economy across Richmond upon Thames, the council has said.
Since the change there have been 215 prior notifications of conversions in Richmond, which he council says could result in a loss of over 50,000 sq m of office floor space – nearly 20% of office space in the borough.
To combat this, last year the council agreed to remove the permitted development rights within 12 areas which are key office locations in the Borough, including parts of Richmond, Twickenham and Teddington town centres using an Article 4 Direction.
This means that any proposals to transform office to residential in those areas must go through the formal planning process.
Following concerns from local small businesses and voluntary sector organisations that are being displaced from their premises, the council will be considering whether to further extend the coverage of the Article 4 Directions.
Cllr Susan Chappell, cabinet member for community, planning and the voluntary sector, said: “This council continues to be extremely concerned about the new permitted development rights introduced by the Government. Without these planning controls we are already losing valuable employment space, and with it, jobs. Supporting our local economy is at the heart of what we do at the Council.
“In addition, we cannot ensure that any new housing created without planning permission is of adequate quality, that it includes affordable housing or that it contributes to meeting education and health needs that will be generated. Therefore, moving forward and extending the Article 4 Directives, is the only way we can combat this risk.”