Conversion of offices into residential space

Wednesday 4 November 2015, 5:00pm

Motion detail

“This Assembly calls on the Mayor of London to lobby the Government to reverse its decision that the temporary rule allowing property owners to convert offices and other workspaces into flats almost overnight, without the need for planning permission, will be made permanent[11].

The temporary policy has already been an unmitigated disaster for outer London, where over 320 fully occupied office buildings have been earmarked for conversions. Richmond-upon-Thames, for example, has lost 20 per cent of its office space, displacing 3,150 local jobs[12]. Where owners do not convert, the hope value on all commercial and light industrial premises provides an incentive to drive up rents, squeezing out even more affordable workspace. The migration of jobs outside of local authorities and beyond is particularly concerning in light of plans to allow local authorities to keep increased business rate revenues. The converted housing will not be affordable and is not required to meet environmental or disability standards set by local authorities[13].

The extended policy will be even more damaging to London’s economy. The exemption currently enjoyed by limited parts of central London will expire in 2019. Boroughs will be able to impose Article 4 directions to suspend the permitted development rights, but this is a cumbersome process which can result in councils being subject to compensation claims by property owners and can be vetoed by the Secretary of State against the councils’ wishes.

In addition, under the new rules, developers will be able to demolish office buildings and build new residential buildings in their place, further undermining the ability of local authorities to plan for development.

This Assembly recognises that some areas may have a surplus of office space, but the existing planning system already gives local authorities the tools to allow conversions where appropriate[14].

Given his statutory planning function in London, this Assembly calls on the Mayor to lobby the Government to withdraw its proposals regarding Permitted Development Rights in the capital.”

[11] DCLG press release. “Thousands more homes to be developed in planning shake up.” 13 October 2015.

[12] London Councils. “The Impact of Permitted Development Rights for Office to Residential Conversions.” August 2015.

[13] National Planning Policy Guidance. “Planning Obligations.” Paragraph: 005 Reference ID: 23b-005-20140306

[14] London Plan Policy 4.2