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Ministers respond to block on offices-to-homes conversions

by on July 17, 2014

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has revoked a London council’s article 4 direction designed to remove office-to-home conversion permitted development rights from much of the borough’s area.

Islington Council, the planning authority involved, had originally planned a blanket direction for the whole of its area. Subsequently DCLG granted the council an exemption for part of its area covered by the central activities zone.
Ministers then considered Islington’s proposal for the article 4 direction to apply to a reduced area but determined, in light of the tests set out in national policy and guidance, that the proposals were “unacceptably expansive and unjustified”.

News of this move by the department came in a written statement in the Commons. MPs were told: “This coalition Government are committed to providing more homes on brownfield land and our change of use reforms are helping deliver these without burdening taxpayers.

“Those who seek to oppose these changes need to spell out exactly where they think new homes should go instead, given the pressing demand for housing and the need to protect England’s beautiful countryside.”

In May a report by Knight Frank indicated that applications for prior approval for conversions now stand at an estimated 3.2 million square feet.

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that it is currently considering around 100 appeals by developers contesting prior approval blocks by local planning authorities.

In a statement, Islington Council called the DCLG move “an ill-founded, eleventh-hour intervention which will mean Islington loses out on jobs and affordable homes”.

In a separate but related development, developer English Rose Estates has submitted plans to Camden Council for the redevelopment of the former Covent Garden offices of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatre business into 22 luxury flats.

The five-storey, Grade II listed former boarding school at 22 Tower Street in London’s WC2 was vacated by Lloyd Webber’s company 18 months ago. The proposals include the change of use of the building from office to residential use, with 22 apartments in a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom units. Affordable housing will be provided.

 

Roger Milne
17 July 2014

* Due to technical issues this week’s news stories are published on the Director’s Blog. They will be published on the Planning Portal in due course.

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