Mayor of London should support boroughs in seeking office-to-residential exemptions, report says

Out-Law News | 30 Jul 2014 | 4:58 pm | 1 min. read

A report for the Greater London Authority has recommended that the mayor of London supports boroughs seeking limited exemptions from rules automatically permitting the conversion of offices into homes.

Architects Maccreanor Lavington and consultancies Peter Brett Associates and Graham Harrington Planning Advice produced the report, entitled Accommodating Growth in Town Centres (294-page / 17.9 MB PDF), which is intended to inform draft further alterations to the London Plan. It looked at how development in London's town centres might be co-ordinated to provide additional housing and jobs and capture increased consumer spending in the face of projected population growth of 1.9 million by 2036.

The report recommended that under-performing town centres experiencing "high vacancy rates, comparatively low rents and a worsening retail offer" reinvent themselves so as to attract customers and investment and that "residential-led mixed used development offers one route to re-shape town centres whilst at the same time providing an opportunity to accommodate more homes". 

However, the authors warned that, although residential development provided the best financial returns in all of the eight town centres studied, except in "strong retail centres" where retail use was most profitable, maintaining a mix of uses was important. In particular, authorities should recognise the importance of "low threshold enterprise space" that could provide low rent, flexible office space to start-up companies, providing opportunities  for growth, job creation and diversity within town centres, the report said.

In order to increase housing density while maintaining a balance of uses within town centres, the report recommended that the mayor of London supported boroughs looking to apply targeted exemptions to rules introduced by the government in May 2013 permitting the conversion of offices to homes without the need for planning permission.

"It is recommended that the mayor supports boroughs that seek to use Article 4 directions to disapply the new changes for specific town centre locations where there is evidence that the permitted development rights could frustrate the objectives of securing higher density housing," said the report.

A public examination of the draft further alterations to the London Plan commences on 1 September.