Tower Hamlets

News from Unmesh Desai: Government planning policy hampering efforts to tackle housing crisis

05 June 2019

Local families have been left to live in claustrophobic and sub-standard conditions as a result of flawed Government planning policies. 495 homes have been built under relaxed conversion to residential rules (Permitted Development) in Tower Hamlets since 2013, according to London Development Database figures obtained through a written response from the Mayor of London. Analysis of this data has also shown that none of these homes were affordable. Local London Assembly Member, Unmesh Desai AM, is calling upon the Government to urgently scrap Permitted Development rights, saying the priority should be to build the genuinely affordable and decent homes Londoners actually need.

 

Permitted Development rules allow developers to convert certain office and industrial buildings to residential use without going through the full planning process, in an aim to speed up the delivery of new homes. These conversions are also exempt from having to adhere to minimum space standards laid down by the Government.

 

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) data, has been used to identify the floorspace of 19 of the permitted development homes built in Tower Hamlets since 2013. This has revealed that 5 of these flout minimum space standards.

 

London requires 65,000 new homes a year, according to the New London Plan, with 65% of these needing to be affordable. However, of the 15,929 homes built across the capital through Permitted Development conversions since 2013, only 71 were affordable – accounting for just 0.4%.

 

Last Autumn, the Government consulted on proposals to extend Permitted Development to allow a wider range of high street uses to be converted to homes without planning permission. The Government also proposes to give Permitted Development Rights to the full demolition of commercial buildings to be rebuilt as residential properties.

 

Local London Assembly Member, Unmesh Desai AM, said:

 

This flawed Government policy is hampering the efforts being made to tackle the acute housing crisis faced by Tower Hamlets.

 

“Permitted Development doesn’t offer a solution to housing shortfall, it just forces families into sub-standard, rabbit-hutch homes.

 

Government plans to further extend Permitted Development Rights are extremely concerning and could lay the groundwork for the slums of the future.

 

“Planning standards have been put in place for a reason, and our priority should be to build the thousands of genuinely affordable and decent quality homes that Londoners need. All the evidence suggests that the Government need to scrap this policy as a matter of urgency”.

  

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • 495 homes have been built under relaxed conversion to residential rules (Permitted Development) in Tower Hamlets since 2013, according to London Development Database figures obtained by Londonwide Assembly Member, Tom Copley AM, provided in a written answer from the Mayor of London;

 

  • A borough-by-borough breakdown of the data can be found attached;

 

  • Permitted Development Rights were introduced in England in 1995, and allow certain changes to be made to a building without requiring full permission from the Local Planning Authority. Originally, these were intended to be used for minor modifications, such as installation of porches, fences, satellite dishes or solar panels, while also including extensions of homes. Since 2013, these rights have been expanded considerably. In May 2013, legislation came into force which would allow conversion from office (use class B1(a)) to residential (C£) without full planning permission. With this also came the introduction of Permitted Development Rights to convert some light-industrial buildings (for example, small workshops) to residential as well. Developers make an application through a “prior approvals” process – and the local council is not able to hold a scheme to the criteria set out in its Local Plan, or those set in the Mayor’s London Plan, as it would for any other typical development. The authority may take into account impacts on highways and transport, the impact of noise from nearby commercial premises, but the converted dwellings do not need to meet minimum size standards or provide affordable housing;

 

  • National Described Minimum Space Standards, set by the Government, can be found in the table below and here;

 

Nationally Described Minimum Space Standard

Bedrooms

Persons

Minimum internal space (square metres)

One

1p

37

2p

50

Two

3p

61

4p

70

Three

4p

74

5p

86

6p

95

Four

5p

90

6p

99

7p

108

 

  • Energy Performance Certificate data can be accessed here;

 

  • Figures from the London Development Database, and provided in a written answer from the Mayor of London, show that 15,929 homes have been built under Permitted Development since 2013. Of these, 71 were recorded by the local planning authority as being affordable (just 0.4%);

 

  • The Mayor’s New London Plan sets out the need for 65% of new homes to be affordable. In August 2017, the Mayor introduced new Supplementary Planning Guidance which introduced a “threshold approach” to affordable housing;

 

  • The Government consultation on proposals to extend Permitted Development to allow a wider range of high street uses to convert to homes without planning permission can be found here;

 

  • In May 2019, Londonwide Assembly Member Tom Copley AM, published his report, Slums of the Future – Permitted Development Conversions in London. The report can be read here;

 

  • Unmesh Desai AM is the London Assembly Member for Tower Hamlets.

 

For more information please contact London Assembly Labour Group Press Officer, Nick Wilson, on 020 7983 4401. Number not for publication.