Businesses in Westminster will face threat of eviction as a result of Government’s planning changes

Office

Government changes which would mean offices, light industrial, and warehousing could be converted into housing without any need for planning permission have come under fire from local London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi AM who has warned that they threaten employment space and jobs in Westminster. 

Qureshi attacked the policy which is currently the subject of Government consideration and highlighted the Mayor of London’s failure to stand up for London after exemptions originally granted to parts of the capital look set to be removed. 

The Government proposals would allow property owners to convert employment spaces – offices, light industrial facilities, and warehouses – into flats overnight without the need for planning permission. The policy was originally introduced for offices on a temporary basis last year but is now set to be made permanent, having already resulted in the loss of half a million square metres of office floorspace in London, most of which was occupied by businesses and organisations. 

A national survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors found that permitted development contributed to the largest reduction of commercial space since records were kept. Now the Government proposes making the policy permanent, removing exemptions that were granted under the temporary measure, and extending permitted development rights to any light industrial and warehousing use.

Murad Qureshi AM, Labour London wide Assembly Member, said: 

“The Government’s plans are a clear threat to jobs and businesses in Westminster. Allowing property owners to convert offices, light industrial, and warehouses into flats without the need for planning permission is a reckless measure which sacrifices jobs. It results in the wrong types of and sub-standard housing in the wrong locations, and without any contribution to affordable housing or consideration of local infrastructure such as schools.

“There is a huge amount at stake for Westminster and the rest of London. Permitted development drives up the land value of employment space – even where property owners don’t convert, they will use it as a reason to increase rents, forcing businesses to close or to leave London.

“The Government regularly boast about London’s economic recovery but unless they back down on this change that fragile progress will be under threat.”

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Notes 

–       Murad Qureshi is a Labour London wide Assembly Member

–       The RICS UK Commercial Market Survey for Q2 2014 showed that the nationwide availability of commercial property declined at its fastest rate in the history of that data series . The survey blamed number of transactions of commercial properties being sold under the PD rights, and respondents said the problem is most acute in London and the south east. The survey can be found at: http://www.rics.org/uk/knowledge/news-insight/news/offices-converted-into-residential-drives-up-commercial-shortages/