Policy 4.2 Offices



A    The Mayor will and boroughs and other stakeholders should:

a  support the management and mixed use development and redevelopment of office provision to improve London’s competitiveness and to address the wider objectives of this Plan, including enhancing its varied attractions for businesses of different types and sizes including small and medium sized enterprises

b  recognise and address strategic as well as local differences in implementing this policy to:

  • meet the distinct needs of the central London office market, including the north of the Isle of Dogs, by sustaining and developing its unique and dynamic clusters of ‘world city’ and other specialist functions and business environments, and
  • consolidate and extend the strengths of the diverse office markets elsewhere in the capital by promoting their competitive advantages, focusing new development on viable locations with good public transport, enhancing the business environment including through mixed use redevelopment, and supporting managed conversion of surplus capacity to more viable, complementary uses

c  encourage renewal and modernisation of the existing office stock in viable locations to improve its quality and flexibility

d  seek increases in the current stock where there is authoritative, strategic and local evidence of sustained demand for office-based activities in the context of policies 2.7, 2.9, 2.132,15, 2.16 and 2.17

e  monitor the impact of government liberalisation of Permitted Development rights for changes of use from offices to residential.  

LDF preparation

B    LDFs should:

a  enhance the environment and offer of London’s office locations in terms of physical attractiveness, amenities, ancillary and supporting activities as well as services, accessibility, safety and security

b  provide the basis for work with the GLA Group, investors, developers, land owners and potential occupiers to bring forward and renew development capacity as efficiently as possible, co-ordinating their activities and interests to avoid planning delays and facilitating site assembly, if necessary, through the compulsory purchase process and especially beyond the central London office market

c  work with sub-regional partners to develop co-ordinated, phased strategies to manage long term, structural changes in the office market, focusing new capacity where there is strategic as well as local evidence of demand, encouraging renewal and modernisation in viable locations and supporting changes of surplus office space to other uses

d  examine the scope for re-use of otherwise surplus large office spaces for smaller units.

Supporting text

4.10  In recent decades London’s economy has been increasingly service-based, and this is likely to continue. As a result, ensuring there is enough office space of the right kind in the right places is a key task for the London planning system.

4.11  Results from the 2009 London Office Policy Review[1] indicate that office based employment may grow by some 303,000 between 2011 and 2031. On the basis of this; a central assumption for office employment density of 12 sq.m  per worker; net:gross development ratios of 75% - 85%; and a frictional vacancy rate of eight per cent, London might need an additional 3.9 million sq m (net) or 4.6 - 5.2 million sq.m (gross) office floorspace by 2031 (see Table 4.1). However, particularly beyond central London, historic performance has shown that employment growth has not translated into office floorspace demand[2]. The Mayor is concerned that the planning process should not compromise potential growth, so 3.9 million sq.m (net) provides a broad, employment based, monitoring benchmark and will be set among others addressing development trends, density, rents, take-up and vacancy.

Table 4.1 Demand for office based employment and floorspace, 2011–2031


Office based employment growth

Demand for office floorspace

(million sqm)


% of total growth

Net floorspace

Gross floorspace

(75% ratio)

Gross floorspace

(85% ratio)

Outer London






Inner London*






CAZ and the north of the Isle of Dogs






London total






* Excluding CAZ and north of Isle of Dogs

Source: GLA; derived from London Office Policy Review 2009

4.12  Informed by the recommendations of the Outer London Commission (OLC)[3], the Mayor encourages the renewal and modernisation of the office stock in viable locations in outer and inner London and urges boroughs to manage changes of surplus office space to other uses, providing overall capacity is sustained to meet London’s long-term office needs. The findings of the OLC and the London Office Review Panel (LORP) indicate that the most viable locations for the renewal and modernisation of the office stock in outer London include:

  • Strategic Outer London Development Centres (Policy 2.16), particularly the strategic office centres at Croydon and Stratford and elsewhere if justified by demand, for example at Brent Cross
  • mid-urban business parks such as that which has been developed at Chiswick
  • town centre based office quarters (see office guidelines in Annex 2)
  • conventional business parks beyond the urban area, such as those at Stockley Park and Bedfont Lakes, which should work towards greater transport sustainability
  • science and innovation parks, ranging from urban incubator units to more spacious provision
  • existing linear office developments such as the ‘Golden Mile’ in Hounslow, which should be made more sustainable in transport terms
  • locally oriented, town centre based office provision, which can be consolidated effectively to meet local needs, or where necessary, changed to other uses.

4.13  Local plans and strategies should support the conversion of surplus offices to other uses and promote mixed use development in the light of integrated strategic and local studies of office demand. Informed by the independent London Office Review Panel a ‘plan, monitor and manage’ approach will be used to reconcile office demand and supply across the development cycles likely to be encountered over the years to 2036. This may well provide scope for changes from surplus office to other uses, especially housing, providing overall capacity is sustained to meet London’s long-term office needs. The scope for re-use of otherwise surplus large office space for smaller units suitable for SMEs should also be considered.

4.13A  In 2013 the government liberalised permitted development rights for changes of use from offices to residential but granted exemptions for parts of London including the Central Activities Zone, the north of the Isle of Dogs, Tech City (City Fringe), Kensington and Chelsea and the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone. The impact of the liberalisation of permitted development rights beyond these areas will be monitored by the GLA in collaboration with the boroughs.

4.14  In the CAZ and the Isle of Dogs there remains strong long-term office demand, and a substantial development pipeline which is partly subject to the implementation of Crossrail and other significant investments in transport capacity. Environmental improvements in these locations continue to be needed to enhance its attraction as a global business location.

[1] Ramidus Consulting Limited, Roger Tym & Partners. London Office Policy Review 2009. GLA, 2009

[2] Ramidus Consulting Limited 2009, op cit

[3] Mayor of London. The Mayor’s Outer London Commission Report, GLA 2010

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