Islington businesses could find themselves “turfed out” of office buildings due to changes to government planning regulations, Local London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE AM, has warned. New analysis by Ms Arnold revealed that Islington could lose 48,650 square metres of office space, the equivalent of 7 Wembley Stadium football pitches, after the government relaxed planning rules on the conversion of offices into residential properties. The relaxed rules make it possible for developers to convert properties without the need for planning permission, with councils only given a veto if the proposed development fails to meet the most basic conditions. Ms Arnold warned that the policy undermines London’s economy and could “result in tiny sub-standard housing which fails to serve the needs of Londoners.”
Analysis of data from the London Development Database revealed that across London, between May 2013 and March 2015, there were 2,806 proposals to convert office space into residential property under the permitted development rights. With over 2,000 applications already approved, approximately 1,094,550 square metres of floor space will be lost, the equivalent of 153 Wembley Stadium football pitches.
91 of 129 applications were approved in Islington, resulting in a potential loss of 48,650 square metres of office space. Parts of Inner London, including Islington, are currently exempt from the policy, but that reprieve will come to an end in May 2019. In total, 7 Wembley Stadium football pitches worth of workspace could be lost from the borough.
The approved applications will see employment space across London converted into residential properties with councils given very little power to object or insist on adequate standards. Ms Arnold warned that the reforms could result in sub-standard housing, with developers allowed to “ride roughshod” over important environmental and disability standards. Under the rules the converted housing does not need to meet vital space standards or meet affordable housing requirements.
London Assembly Member for North East (covering Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, Jennette Arnold OBE AM, said:
“Seeing businesses turfed out of offices and other employment spaces across Islington will do nothing to help our local economy. Nor will allowing developers to ride roughshod over planning standards solve the housing crisis.
“Yes, we need to solve the housing crisis but this isn’t the way to do it. What this policy does is rob our local community of an opportunity to deliver the developments suitable to our neighbourhoods. This can result in tiny sub-standard housing which fails to serve the needs of local people. We won’t see the affordable housing local families need.
“The considerable loss of affordable workspace comes as a huge blow to local start-ups and small business, putting local jobs at risk. This is a hugely flawed policy, it’s baffling that the Mayor isn’t fighting these changes.”
– The new data on the number of prior approval applications, approved applications and lost floor space is from the London Development Database, and analysed by Jennette Arnold OBE AM.
– In May 2013, the Government introduced on a temporary three-year basis a permitted development right scheme, allowing property owners to convert offices into residential properties without the need for planning permission. Permitted development rights allow the conversion of B1 office space into C3 residential without the need for planning permission. Developers need only submit a prior approval application which allows the local authority to consider only transport impacts, contamination risks and flooding risks, but takes away its discretion to decide the application on other policy merits.
– The policy was originally introduced on a temporary three-year basis but last week the Government confirmed that it will be made permanent from 6 April. The figures in this press release relate solely to the office space converted to residential and do not take into account the Government’s decision to make the policy permanent and even widen it to include all B1 which includes light industrial, artist studios, and laboratories.
– Across London 2,806 prior approval applications were made to convert office space into residential between May 2013 and March 2015; 2,003 of these were approved. In Islington 129 prior approval applications were made; 91 of these were approved.
|Number of Class J Prior Approvals decided by status between May 2013 and March 2015||Office floor space potentially lost|
|Number of applications||Number Approved||Number Refused||Floor Space Lost|
– Approved applications across London will see the loss of 1,094,550 square metres of floor space; Islington stands to lose 48,650 square metres of office space. A borough-by-borough breakdown is available here.
– A single Wembley football pitch measure 7,140 square metres. 1,094,550 square metres of lost floor space is the equivalent of 153.3 Wembley football pitches.
– A standard football pitch ranges from 4,050 square metres to 10,800 square metres. We have based calculations on a football pitch sized 4.050 square metres.
– A list of boroughs with temporary exemptions from permitted development can be found here.
– Jennette Arnold OBE AM is the London Assembly Member for North East (covering Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest)