Boris needs to be successful on permitted development this time round

The Government’s plans on permitted development rights are a threat to London and its economic recovery. Allowing property owners to convert offices, light industrial, and warehouses into flats without the need for planning permission is a reckless measure which sacrifices jobs. It results in the wrong types of and sub-standard housing in the wrong locations, and without any contribution of affordable housing or Section 106.

Boris has promised to stand up for London. But he did that before, and he didn’t get the best deal possible.

That’s why earlier today, the Mayor came under cross-party fire for failing to successfully use his influence to block Government plans which threaten London’s employment space. In a series of exchanges following my question at this month’s Mayor’s Question time, the Mayor agreed to write to the Government and pledged that “we will secure changes” to the proposal which would mean offices, light industrial, and warehousing could be converted into housing without any need for planning permission.

There was wide agreement amongst both Labour and Tory AMs, but Boris seemed utterly unaware of the threat posed by the proposal.

The Government proposals would allow property owners to convert employment spaces – offices, light industrial facilities, and warehouses – into flats overnight without the need for planning permission. The policy was originally introduced for offices on a temporary basis last year but is now set to be made permanent, having already resulted in the loss of half a million square metres of office floorspace in London, most of which was occupied by businesses and organisations.

A national survey by RICS earlier this summer found the permitted development contributed to the largest reduction of commercial space since records were kept. Now the Government proposes making the policy permanent, removing exemptions that were granted under the temporary measure, and extending permitted development rights to any light industrial and warehousing use.

This is a reckless measure which sacrifices jobs. It results in the wrong types of and sub-standard housing in the wrong locations, and without any contribution of affordable housing or Section 106.

There is a huge amount at stake for London. Permitted development drives up the land value of employment space – even where property owners don’t convert, they will use it as a reason to drive up rents, forcing businesses to close or to leave London.

The Mayor boasted about his influence in Westminster during the last campaign but when the Government decided to allow the permitted development for offices to residential he only managed some exemptions for a few parts of London. Now, just over a year later, they’re taking even those away. Now that he’s a Tory candidate, I hope Boris has more influence because he certainly failed to get the best deal for London as Mayor.

The Assembly’s Labour group will be responding to the consultation, which closes on 26 September. I will post our response here.

In the meantime, you can watch the exchange between me and Boris here.

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About nickygavron

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