Tuesday, 02 September 2014

City seeks planning change exemption

The planning officer for the City of London will claim today that businesses could be harmed if office space is turned into homes.

Speaking at an event organised by the British Property Federation, Peter Rees, city planning officer for the Corporation of London, is expected to argue that the square mile and other leading business districts should be protected.

Mr Rees will say: ‘While the government’s ambition of supporting economic growth and increasing housing stocks is laudable, the consultation on relaxing planning laws for the conversion of office space to residential properties could have a detrimental impact not only on the City of London but on business districts throughout the UK.

‘The cyclical nature of the property industry means that if developers were to turn offices into residential blocks when times were tough, the City’s ability to attract and house new firms when market conditions improved would be seriously diminished.’

Chancellor George Osborne announced in March that he wanted to cut red tape prohibiting converting commercial property into homes.

Andrew Stanford, chair of the British Property Federation residential committee, will say:‘ ‘The government’s consultation on the proposed relaxation on the planning rules to allow a change of use by way of permitted development from offices and possibly general industrial and storage and distribution to residential use has come as a pleasant surprise to the residential investment sector.

‘Coupled with the desperate need to increase housing supply, particularly in London and the south east, the proposal is to be welcomed, albeit with caution in key areas such as the City of London where it is likely that adjustments to the policy will be required.’

Readers' comments (4)

  • I can understand what Mr Rees is saying to some extent, but how many empty office blocks are just sitting around empty when there is real need for housing. Why can't the planning rules be relaxed but to a mutually beneficial degree.

    Maybe part of the consideration for the change of use from commercial premises to residential should be the amount of other available office space in the immediate vasinity.

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  • If there are to be exemptions, then the city operators must fund something close-by, not a donation, we should start to see developments built. Westminster ‘waived’ fees recently on two developments – I don’t know a council in UK that is in position to turn down fees. Westminster and the city council should direct / attain funding for a project in surrounding area, although I don’t see why some very large blocks could not be sectioned off for housing, especially if state owned – multi tenure building – if some designed for work & live, all the better, especially if it got one of the tenants in to work………..the city operators should consider this part of their philanthropy.

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  • Businesses are always full of doom and object to anything like this. For example the minimum wage was going to bring businesses to their knees but actually went a long way to delivering a half-decent working wage for the lowest paid.
    In reality, only a minority of offices will be suitable for conversion anyway. Business needs to stop keep crying 'wolf'.

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  • Chris

    Oh dear, professional people rising weeks after the event to agree with me - will my credibility stand the formal confirmation?

    Not only in the commercial districts of London, but even the commercial areas of towns, if you rip out the business potential you rip out the heart of the community, forcing ever more 'out-of-town' parks on marginal green belt when and if investment returns. This will in turn lead to more commuting miles as well as greater disconnection within communities.

    As with much seeping out of the Minister for Housing, the idea sounds well intentioned but is like a child trying to cope with quantum physics - cute but pointless.

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