Westminster lose out in Government’s arbitrary exemptions

Under the new regime businesses are practically confined to areas dictated by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles. By drawing boundaries around exempted areas the Government is directing where business should develop and cluster. Previously clusters like Tech City, which has been exempted, could expand naturally.

The planning system already provides local authorities the tools to allow conversions where appropriate. Westminster applied for an exemption but only the Central Activities Zone was awarded an exemption.

Local government officers complained they found out about the decisions on a public website.

Labour Londonwide Assembly Member, Murad Qureshi AM said:

“These exemptions should be seen for what they are – a Government which trumpets localism whilst once again ignores local concerns. It’s extraordinary that Westminster] was not given an exemption when the local economy needs all the help it can get. The vast majority of London is at risk of losing the office space that existing small businesses and start-ups rely on to thrive.

“We know there are better ways of getting housing than at the expense of jobs and growth.

The difference in value between employment and residential properties is already high, and this policy will double or treble it in areas which aren’t exempted.”



1.    Murad Qureshi AM is a Labour Londonwide Assembly Member.

2.    New permitted development rights for B1(a) office to C(3) residential will come into effect on 30 May. Yesterday Department for Communities and Local Government announced that only select parts of Manchester, ten London boroughs, and a handful of other areas will be exempt.

3.    The Government considerably strengthened these powers in the recent National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Paragraph 51 directs local authorities to “normally approve planning applications for change to residential use”.

4.    DCLG made the decisions based on a superficial scoring criteria which local authorities were only notified of after the decision had been made.

5.    The boundary of the exemption in Westminster is available here:


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