• Mayor acts to stop resi conversions

The London mayor has stepped in to protect business space in the capital, after revealing that 1.47 million sq metres of office space has been converted to residential use since 2013.
The conversions, under the government’s permitted development rights, mean space that could have supported almost 94,000 jobs has been permanently lost.
Analysis by City Hall lays bare the impact of the governmental experiment, in the name of simplified planning, that has allowed developers to convert buildings without seeking change of use under planning rules. It shows that 5,200 homes were created under the development rights programme in 2013, 10,922 were added in 2014 and 5,512 units in 2015, across London.
“These new figures lay bare the impact that the Government’s misguided policies are having on space for business in London,” said Sadiq Khan. “Of course we need new homes, but this does not need to be at the expense of the space we need for the businesses that provide our jobs and drive our prosperity. Space which is genuinely surplus to commercial needs should be identified authoritatively and its release carefully managed so that it does not undermine local business.”
“As mayor, I will be focusing on building new affordable homes on publicly and privately owned brownfield land, while changing the London Plan in order to protect viable business space and to create new start-up spaces in housing developments.
“There clearly needs to be more control over where office space can be converted to residential use. Over the next four years, I will be working to build the thousands of affordable houses we need in London at the same time as increasing the good quality space available for small business, start-ups and entrepreneurs. This is just one of the many pro-business measures I’ll be setting out in the coming months.”
Khan has promised he will be amending the London Plan to provide stronger protection for small business and start-up workspace. He wants more spaces to be provided within mixed use developments, alongside housing, to support the creative industries, and will promote schemes that link affordable housing and business space. And there will be further lobbying of central government over permitted development rights.

LPA Perspective: Few in the capital have been in favour of the government extending their permitted rights “experiment”, though it now seems likely to become a permanent feature. And, as the economy has picked up, Westminster has been the most vociferous worrier about the loss of employment space as planners sit powerless and watch offices lost to residential use.
Changes to the London Plan are all very well, but they will take time to come into effect. Meantime, let us hope that officials will effectively lean on developers to make more inclusive business space as part of their mixed use projects.

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