Earlier today, I chaired a meeting of the London Assembly Planning Committee on the government’s change of use permitted development rights. Under the plans, offices large and small could be converted into housing almost overnight without any planning permission. Worried about what this means for loss of employment space, as well as the quality and affordability of the resulting flats, the committee brought together expert planners, economists, and local government officers to discuss the impact on London. The panel was unanimous in its opposition.
Central London could lose a quarter of its office space and small firms may find it impossible to get space in the capital.
I’m really concerned by what the Committee heard today. There are better ways of getting new housing supply than at the expense of small businesses and much needed jobs. The planning system already gives councils the tools they need to convert offices into housing when it’s appropriate. London may have surplus office space, but as we heard today, there seems a real danger that these Government plans could be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
The Committee will write to Government, outlining the concerns raised at the meeting and asking for a re-think of its policy.