London Assembly Labour group’s press release, including my statement, following Government’s announcement on exemptions for the incoming policy allowing developers to convert offices to flats without planning permission.
Businesses and boroughs lose out with Government’s exemptions
Two-thirds of London is at risk of losing valuable office space, following the Government’s decision to allow developers to turn offices into flats without planning permission. Many boroughs requested exemptions from the Government policy but were turned down last week.
Under the new regime businesses are practically confined to areas dictated by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles. By drawing boundaries around exempted areas the Government is directing where business should develop and cluster. Previously clusters like Tech City, which has been exempted, could expand naturally.
London Assembly Labour spokesperson on planning, Nicky Gavron has argued against the policy as the planning system already provides local authorities the tools to allow conversions where appropriate.
Local government officers complained they found out about the decisions on a public website.
London Assembly Labour spokesperson on planning, Nicky Gavron said:
“These exemptions should be seen for what they are, a Government which trumpets localism whilst once again not listening to local concerns. It’s extraordinary that only ten out of 33 London boroughs were exempted from this policy when the economy needs all the help it can get. The vast majority of London is at risk of losing the office space that existing small businesses and start-ups rely on to thrive.
“We know there are better ways of getting housing than at the expense of jobs and growth.
“How will the Tech Cities of the future pop up when any property outside the boundaries will have too high a value for many businesses and start-ups? The difference in value between employment and residential properties is already high, and this policy will double or treble it in areas which aren’t exempted.”
1. Nicky Gavron is a London-wide Labour Assembly Member. She chairs the London Assembly Planning Committee.
2. New permitted development rights for B1(a) office to C(3) residential will come into effect on 30 May. Last week Department for Communities and Local Government announced that only select parts of Manchester, ten London boroughs, and a handful of other areas will be exempt.
3. The Government considerably strengthened these powers in the recent National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Paragraph 51 directs local authorities to “normally approve planning applications for change to residential use”.
4. DCLG made the decisions based on a superficial scoring criteria which local authorities were only notified of after the decision had been made.