Planners in Kensington & Chelsea have moved to restrict the expansion of permitted rights to light industrial units in the borough.
From Occtober 2017, permitted development rights that have previously applied to office buildings will be extended to any light industrial unit of less than 500 sq m. In common with office schemes, conversions to residential will be permitted, without the developer seeking planning permission.
But the borough has applied for an Article 4 Direction to exempt such properties in the borough from the permitted development rights. The ruling will protect clusters of light industrial space still in manufacturing use, and a number of named garages across the borough.
“Garages are an essential part of everyday life in Kensington and Chelsea and our residents don’t want to travel miles when their car needs to be repaired or to get an MOT,” said councillor Tim Coleridge, cabinet member for planning.
“These, and other industrial uses, are also a valuable source of employment for local people. National planning policy changes can have a huge impact in our borough and without controls in place there would be a tendency to lose vital community uses to housing.”
The borough has previously used the same strategy to prevent the loss of launderettes in the borough. Again, an Article 4 Direction has been sought, following the government’s move to allow such premises to be converted without planning consent, into homes. The move in July saw councillor Nick Paget-Brown, the council leader, declare: “While times have changed and washing machines are no longer as expensive as they once were, launderettes are still used by many of our residents who cannot afford a washing machine or when their homes cannot accommodate one.”
“We aren’t saying launderettes should remain launderettes forever but that any change of use must be properly scrutinised against all of our well-developed planning policies.”
Consultation over the light industrial direction will take place until 4 November, with the aim that it will be in place from September 2017.
LPA Perspective: The borough’s officials do have a point. In areas where residential values are high, they stand a good chance of watching as valuable community resources such as launderettes and garages are lost to conversions. These are valuable local amenities that the planning system was set up to protect, and the government’s continued march towards more permitted development will, as ever, have unintended consequences that will negatively affect neighbours.
Permitted development was originally sold as a way of enabling unused commercial space to be repurposed and brought back into use. That’s a fine principle, and may have worked in some cases. But it has not worked very well in central London, where Westminster led the charge against the loss of employment space. And second hand, budget office space has been lost from the market, arguably hobbling new, growing businesses.
Expect other boroughs to argue for similar exemptions.