Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Mayor to 'protect office space from housing'

The mayor of London’s office has published new guidance to try and protect office space in central London from being converted to housing.

The government in May 2013 announced a relaxation of planning permission for office to residential conversions through permitted development rights, which allows developers to convert offices without having to get planning permission. It exempted an area of central London, known as the Central Activities Zone, from permitted development rights but this is due to expire in May 2019.

Instead, the mayor has today published guidance on Article 4 directions, made under the Town and Country Planning Act Order 1995, which allows councils to restrict permitted development rights.

The mayor has published guidance on what Article 4 directions could include, which could be contextual background on the international significance of the use of the office space, evidence of employment levels and the impact of the loss of office space on jobs and productivity.

The guidance states: “There is concern that sustained loss of offices, including the generally more affordable existing office stock, could erode the strategic offer of the Central Activities Zone as an internationally competitive and nationally important office location and undermine its associated agglomeration benefits.”

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “While we continue to do all we can to increase housing supply city-wide, it is also vital that we protect our office space so central London continues to be a key generator of economic prosperity for the entire country.”

The government has confirmed it will make permitted development rights for office to residential conversions permanent from April.

Labour’s London Assembly planning spokesperson, Nicky Gavron, said research she had done showed over one million square metres of office space in London could be converted into homes since permitted development rights were introduced.

Ms Gavron analysed data from the London Development Database which revealed that between May 2013 and March 2015 there were 2,806 proposals to convert office space into houses under permitted development rights.

She warned the reforms could result in sub-standard housing, with developers allowed to “ride roughshod” over environmental and disability standards.

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