Planning Committee: proposals threaten London’s recovery

Following Wednesday’s meeting of the London Assembly Planning Committee, the Assembly released the following press notice:


New proposals could mean office shortage hampers London’s recovery

19 OCTOBER 2012

Proposals to make it easier to change business premises of all size into housing could damage London’s economic recovery, the London Assembly Planning Committee heard yesterday.

At a meeting to discuss the Government’s plans[1] to diminish protection currently given to employment uses, guests representing the property and planning industries warned moves to deliver more homes could hamper start-up companies by depriving them of the space they need to grow. Thriving businesses may also be forced out due to housing increasing rent.  London is particularly vulnerable because the value of land for residential use in central parts of the capital is double that for office use[2].

Although the Government’s intention may be to ease a shortage of housing, the Committee heard that in areas like the City of London, offices might be redeveloped for new homes that are bought as investments and never actually lived in.

The large disparity in value between land for employment use and housing also places pressure on vital employment space, such as wharves. Members heard that ‘hope values’ that these facilities, vital for river freight, may be redeveloped for housing has encouraged owners to keep them vacant for years.

The Committee also heard a lack of clarity from the Government is causing uncertainty for developers and local authorities, which could stop or stall developments progressing. The Government only recently considered change of use plans and rejected them. It also has failed to clarify details of the new plan.

Nicky Gavron AM, Chair of the London Assembly Planning Committee, said:  “Employment space is vulnerable to developers looking to make a quick buck by converting it to housing. It’s not as though London doesn’t have plenty of space for houses – it doesn’t need to sacrifice employment space. Doing so threatens the businesses and jobs London needs to grow.

“The Government needs to make its intentions clear to provide certainty to developers. It also needs to make sure its policies don’t threaten employment land with moves for some short-term economic gain at the expense of long-term employment.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Government announced on 6 September that it has revived previously abandoned plans to allow developers to turn certain types of non-residential properties into homes without planning permission. See Secretary of State Eric Pickle’s Ministerial Statement,
  2. Figures from Savills, April 2011
  3. Nicky Gavron AM, Chair of the Planning Committee, is available for interview.  See contact details below.
  4. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

About nickygavron

Former Deputy Mayor of London. London Assembly Member, Chair of Planning Committee, and GLA Labour Spokesperson for Planning. NPF Member.
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