Almost a quarter of central London office space is under threat if the government continues to push forward with its plans to change rules on office to residential conversions the London Assembly has heard.
A number of senior figures questioned the plans at a meeting of the Assembly’s Planning Committee.
Nearly all of the London boroughs, 29 out of 32, have applied for exemption of some kind, but Greater London Authority principle planner, John Lett estimates if these exemptions are not granted, almost four million square metres of office space will be at risk in central London – a quarter of the areas total office space offering.
Under the planned changes, owners of offices up and down the country would be allowed to convert the buildings into homes without planning permission.
Former government planning officer, Michael Bach, described the plans as, “One of the worst designed policy proposals I have seen,” while Richard Pestell, from the Royal Town Planning Institute, warned of, “Huge unintended consequences,” if the scheme were to go ahead, especially in regards to the loss of jobs and mixed-use communities.
Planning Committee chair, Nicky Gavron AM, said: “I’m really concerned by what the Committee heard today. There are better ways of getting new housing supply than at the expense of small businesses and much needed jobs.
“The planning system already gives councils the tools they need to convert offices into housing when it’s appropriate.
“London may have surplus office space, but as we heard today, there seems a real danger that these Government plans could be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”
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