William Eichler 21 January 2019

Council limits permitted development rights to protect office space

Council limits permitted development rights to protect office space image

Islington Council has saved hundreds of thousands of square metres worth of office space from being converted into expensive homes.

The 900,000 square metres of office space - the equivalent to seven Shards - is in the south of the borough and supports around 62,000 jobs.

It is part of the Central Activities Zone (CAZ), the commercial core of London’s economy, and as such is protected from luxury developers by a requirement to get planning permission from the council.

However, since 2013, owners of office buildings in some other parts of the country have been allowed to convert them to residential accommodation without seeking council consent - exercising what is known as a permitted development right (PDR).

While offices within the CAZ have been exempt from this, the Government will lift the exemption in May, leaving landlords free to convert office space into expensive homes.

In order to protect against this, Islington council’s executive has approved the use of an Article 4 Direction in the CAZ to withdraw PDR for anyone wanting to change the use of a building from office to residential. This means they will still need to obtain council permission for any proposed conversion of office space to residential.

‘This might seem like a small legal change but the sheer scale of the threat this poses to the London and national economy - not to mention local jobs and businesses - is incredible,’ said Cllr Asima Shaikh, executive member for inclusive economy and jobs.

‘We’ve already seen the huge impact that the permitted development right has had elsewhere in Islington since 2013, with landlords converting more than six football pitches’ worth of office space into residential, capable of supporting around 3,000 jobs - and with absolutely no affordable housing provided.

‘Many small and medium-sized businesses and charities have been turfed out, jobs have been lost and the local economy has suffered as a result. That is utterly wrong and we cannot let this happen here, where 70% of the borough’s jobs and almost half of Islington’s businesses are located.

‘Our proactive decision shows that we will do everything we can to protect people’s jobs and the office space they rely on.’

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