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Relaxed office-to-residential rules see London lose office space the size of 150 Wembley football pitches

London businesses have found themselves “turfed out” of office buildings due to government planning regulations, Labour’s London Assembly Planning Spokesperson, Nicky Gavron AM, has warned. New analysis by Ms Gavron revealed that over one million square metres of office space, about the size of 150 Wembley Stadium football pitches, will be wiped out 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 Gavron 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, 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 in the capital, the equivalent of 153 Wembley Stadium football pitches.

Outer London is disproportionately impacted by the government’s changes, with 746,316 square metres of office space lost, the equivalent of 104.5 Wembley football pitches. Parts of Inner London are currently exempt from the policy, but that reprieve will come to an end in May 2019.

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 Gavron 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.

Labour’s London Assembly Planning Spokesperson, Nicky Gavron AM, said:

“Seeing businesses turfed out of offices and other employment spaces across the capital will do nothing to help London’s economy. Nor will allowing developers to ride roughshod over planning standards solve London’s 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 local communities of an opportunity to deliver the developments suitable to their neighbourhoods and result in tiny sub-standard housing which fails to serve the needs of Londoners.

“The considerable loss of affordable workspace comes as a huge blow to London’s start-ups and small business, threatening Londoners with having to move or even losing their jobs.

“Vast swathes of London office space are likely to be wiped out under this flawed policy, it’s baffling that the Mayor isn’t fighting these changes.”

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