Mayor of London confirms opposition to extended permitted development rights

Out-Law News | 19 Sep 2014 | 4:50 pm | 1 min. read

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has confirmed that he will write to the UK government, objecting to plans to remove exemptions that prevent the conversion of offices to homes without the need for planning permission in parts of London, and to introduce new rights allowing homes to be created from other types of buildings.

Speaking at a mayor's question time meeting this week, Johnson confirmed that he would make "a very vigorous case for the retention of business space in London". Government proposals seek to remove exemptions to office-to-homes permitted development rights in places such as London's Central Activities Zone and to introduce new rights for homes to be created in buildings currently used for light industry, warehousing, launderettes, casinos, nightclubs and amusement arcades.

"I don't agree with what is being proposed," said Johnson, "and we are sending, not just a particular objection to the loss of the power of councils to prohibit such development in particular areas, but also to the general principle of the loss of councils' [ability] to guarantee that London has adequate office space, adequate employment space, adequate warehousing. London is the motor of the UK economy and it would be a disaster if we were to lose that."

Several members of the London Assembly had raised concerns about the proposed planning changes at the meeting. Labour member Andrew Dismore complained to Johnson that "the impact [of the office-to-homes rights] has been horrendous throughout London" and Labour planning spokesman Nicky Gavron had said that the new proposals represented "a tremendous threat to London's economic recovery".

Johnson told Assembly members: "I totally share your hostility to the loss of business space", adding that "it is very important that we don't lose the potential for London to generate jobs ... London cannot lose too much office space, too much employment space, so I am looking at that very hard and I'm sure you'll have sight of my response when it goes."

Earlier this month, deputy mayor for planning Sir Edward Lister was reported to have indicated that Johnson would be opposing the proposed changes.

"While the mayor places a high priority on increasing housing output, he is likely to object to these proposals as he is determined to protect London's valuable industrial base," said Lister, according to the report. "He is firmly of the belief that policies are already in place to manage the release of surplus industrial land and that this proposal could jeopardise the existing supply of floorspace."

The government's technical consultation on planning is open until 26 September.