In May 2013 RBKC secured from the Government an opt-out of the requirement to permit offices to become housing without needing planning permission. This hard-won exemption is now under threat. It was not based on ‘strategically important office accommodation’ but on the very nature of our local economy and the huge differential between office and housing values. Left to the market it would result in a wipe-out of our small offices within a relatively short period and that this would be a one-way trip.
Now the Government is proposing to remove the opt-out. The exemption allowed RBKC to resist the loss of offices and, if change of use were appropriate, to negotiate policy requirements such as affordable housing and whether more residents’ parking permits should be issued.
Under the existing permitted development rules, from which RBKC is exempted, councils could only refuse office conversion prior approval applications on grounds relating to transport and highways impacts and flooding or contamination risk.
The new proposal would only exempt the “potential loss of the most strategically important office accommodation”.
In addition to the offices to houses, the new rights will change the A1 retail use class to incorporate the majority of uses within the A2 financial and professional services use class, which means shops can turn into estate agent without needing planning permission. The proposal also includes new rights to change use of class A1 (shops) and A2 premises (financial and professional services, including banks, building societies, estate agents, etc) as well as launderettes, amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs to change to class A3 restaurants and cafés.
The consultation ends on 26 September
Link to consultation: