Croydon moves to restrict office to homes conversion rights in Croydon Opportunity Area

Out-Law News | 15 Oct 2014 | 5:14 pm | 1 min. read

The London Borough of Croydon (LBC) has issued an 'Article 4 direction' to remove rights allowing office space to be converted to homes without the need for planning permission in parts of the Borough.

The UK government introduced temporary permitted development rights in May 2013, allowing developers to convert office space into residences without full permission from local authorities in England. Prior to the introduction of the rights, LBC applied unsuccessfully for the Croydon Opportunity Area, which is identified in the London Plan as one of the capital's strategic office locations, to be exempt. A subsequent request for exemption in July this year was also refused by the secretary of state for communities and local government.

According to a statement on LBC's website, the Borough has since made an Article 4 direction (3-page / 650 KB PDF), requiring that "planning permission be sought for any change of use from office to residential use" in the Croydon Opportunity Area from 10 September 2015. LBC said it had made the direction due to concern that the rights were having "a detrimental impact upon the area's ability to retain existing jobs and attract further investment and employment into the central area of Croydon".

In a report (10-page / 91 KB PDF) prepared for a meeting of LBC's cabinet next week, councillor Alison Butler has noted several additional difficulties experienced by the Borough since the rights were introduced. As well as the loss of "strategically important office space" and employment opportunities, LBC found that it could not secure planning obligations from developers making use of the rights, leading to a lack of supporting infrastructure and affordable housing provision in the Borough, the report said.

Butler also said that "the quality of the majority of residential accommodation [approved under the rights] is sub-standard" and that the homes produced were "clearly not fit for family life". According to the report, 1,236 residential units have been approved in the Borough under the permitted development right since May 2013, of which "1,168 ... are studios, one and two bed accommodation" and "1,074 ... do not meet the London Plan space standards".

The government has the power to request the modification of LBC's direction, or to cancel it entirely, should it consider the direction to have been misapplied.

Representations concerning the Article 4 direction can be made to LBC until 22 October.