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Policy E1 Offices


  1. Improvements to the competitiveness and quality of office space of different sizes (for micro, small, medium-sized and larger enterprises) should be supported by new office provision, refurbishment and mixed-use development.
  2. Increases in the current stock of offices should be supported, where there is authoritative, strategic and local evidence of sustained demand for office-based activities, taking into account projected demand for office-based employment and office floorspace to 2041 in Table 6.1.
  3. The unique agglomerations and dynamic clusters of world city businesses and other specialist functions of the central London office market, including the CAZ, NIOD (Northern Isle of Dogs) (see Policy SD4 The Central Activities Zone (CAZ) and Policy SD5 Offices, other strategic functions and residential development in the CAZ) and other nationally-significant office locations (such as Tech City, Kensington & Chelsea and the Royal Docks Enterprise Zones), should be developed and promoted. These should be supported by improvements to walking, cycling and public transport connectivity and capacity. Future potential reserve locations for CAZ-type office functions are identified at Stratford and Old Oak Common, capitalising on their current and potential public transport connectivity to central London, the UK and beyond.
  4. The diverse office markets in outer and inner London (outside the CAZ and NIOD) should be consolidated and - where viable - extended, focusing new development in town centres and other existing office clusters supported by improvements to walking, cycling and public transport connectivity and capacity including:
    1. the strategic outer London office location at Croydon town centre
    2. other town centre office locations (see Town Centre Network office guidelines in Figure A1.4)
    3. existing urban business parks (such as Chiswick Park, Stockley Park and Bedfont Lakes), taking steps towards greater transport sustainability of these locations
    4. locally-oriented, town centre office provision to meet local needs.
  5. Existing viable office floorspace capacity in outer and inner London locations outside the CAZ and NIOD should be retained, supported by borough Article 4 Directions to remove permitted development rights where appropriate, facilitating the redevelopment, renewal and re-provision of office space where viable and releasing surplus office capacity to other uses (see Policy SD9 Town centres: Local partnerships and implementation and office guidelines in Figure A1.4).
  6. Boroughs should consult upon and introduce Article 4 Directions to ensure that the CAZ, NIOD, Tech City, the Royal Docks Enterprise Zones, Kensington & Chelsea and geographically-defined parts of other existing and viable strategic and local office clusters (such as those in and around the CAZ, in town centres and other viable business locations – see part D.3 above) are not undermined by office to residential permitted development rights.
  7. Development proposals should:
    1. take into account the need for lower cost and affordable workspace (see Policy E2 Low-cost business space and Policy E3 Affordable workspace)
    2. examine the scope for the re-use of otherwise surplus large office spaces for smaller units
    3. support the redevelopment, intensification and change of use of surplus office space to other uses including housing.

London has a diverse range of office markets with agglomerations of nationally and internationally significant office functions in the Central Activities Zone, Northern Isle of Dogs, Kensington & Chelsea and Tech City, complemented by strategic town centre office locations in inner and outer London and locally-oriented provision in other town centres across the whole of the capital.

The office market is going through a period of restructuring with increasing numbers of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), changing work styles supported by advances in technology, and new forms of accommodation such as flexible and co-working space[71]. Office employment projections suggest an increase of 619,300 jobs, from 1.98 million in 2016 to 2.60 million in 2041, a rise of 31 per cent[72]. This could translate into demand for between 4.7 and 6.1 million sqm of office floorspace over the period 2016 to 2041 (Table 6.1). It is important that the planning process does not compromise potential growth and so Table 6.1 provides a broad monitoring benchmark which needs to be set against other drivers such as development trends, employment densities, rents, take-up and vacancy.

[71]Ramidus Consulting. London Office Policy Review. GLA, 2017. URS, Ramidus, #1Seed and Gort Scott, Supporting places of work: incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, GLA, 2014

[72]Ramidus Consulting 2017 op cit


Table 6.1 - Projected office employment and floorspace demand 2016-2041

LocationOffice employment growth 2016-2041Office floorspace demand 2016-2041
Total% of total growthGross Internal Area (million sqm)
Outer London142,20023%0.3 – 1.5
CAZ and NIOD367,70059%3.5
Inner London (outside CAZ+NIOD)109,40018%1.0 – 1.1
London total619,300100%4.7 – 6.1

The projections indicate that the CAZ boroughs and some parts of inner London will continue to see growth in office employment and development of new office floorspace, driven by agglomeration economies, high value-added activities and viability of new space. There is broadly sufficient capacity to accommodate this demand in the CAZ and Northern Isle of Dogs[73] complemented by Tech City and Kensington & Chelsea with Stratford and Old Oak Common identified as potential future reserves for CAZ-related office capacity.

[73] CAG Consulting. London Employment Sites Database, GLA, 2017 and Ramidus 2017 op cit.

Outer London will see growth in office employment but the development of significant new office floorspace is anticipated to be focused in selected locations, particularly in west and south London (Figure A1.4) and where values are sufficient to make new office development viable. Office growth in these locations should be supported by improvements to walking, cycling and public transport connectivity and capacity.

It is important to ensure that there is sufficient space to support the growth of new start-up companies and to accommodate SMEs, including lower-cost and affordable business space. Development Plans and development proposals should support the provision of space suitable for SMEs in light of strategic and local assessments of demand and supply.

Outside the office to residential permitted development rights (PDR) exemption areas, more than 1.6 million sqm of office space had received prior approval to change to residential by March 2016[74] mostly, but not exclusively, in town centres in west and south London and in areas around the CAZ fringe. There are concerns that office to residential PDR is having disproportionate impacts on occupied office floorspace and on SMEs and that it could undermine the potential to deliver significantly more housing through more intensive forms of mixed-use development, particularly in town centres. This Plan therefore supports boroughs to consult upon and introduce Article 4 Directions for the areas currently exempted in and around the CAZ (see Policy SD2 Collaboration in the Wider South East) and for geographically-defined parts of other existing and viable strategic and local office clusters, to ensure that their office functions are not undermined by office to residential PDR.

[74] Source: London Development Database