Saturday19 August 2017

Boris acts to protect London's commercial heartland

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Mayor launches planning guidance to restrict office-to-resi conversions

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has published new planning guidance aimed at protecting London’s commercial heartland.

London’s “central activities zone” – spanning 13 square miles from Kensington Gardens to Aldgate and from King’s Cross to Elephant and Castle – is to be given protection to ensure the pressure for new homes in the capital does not come at the expense of business and culture and protects the area as an economic driver.

The guidance is aimed at planners, developers and local authorities and states that new residential development is not appropriate in the City of London and the northern part of the Isle of Dogs – Canary Wharf.

It also includes “more stringent criteria” to prevent the loss of office space and pinpoints areas where priority should be given to commercial use over new residential developments. These areas include the West End, King’s Cross, London Bridge, Waterloo and the emerging Tech City cluster.

The special planning regulations, known as Article 4 directions, are being brought forward to ensure London’s local authorities can continue to evaluate planning applications for change-of-use from May when the government will lift an exemption on office-to-resi conversions in central London without planning permission.

New homes can still be built in specific parts of the capital and old housing renewed under the new guidelines, which also promote a desire to spread student housing away from central London.

Johnson said it was “vital” office space in London is protected so that London can continue to be a “key generator of economic prosperity”.

Deputy mayor for planning Sir Edward Lister said: “The central activities zone is one of the jewels in London’s crown and this detailed planning guidance will help to safeguard it for years to come by taking a sensible and sensitive approach to the differing needs of residential and commercial pressures.”

It comes as Labour’s London Assembly planning spokeswoman, Nicky Gavron, warned that the government’s relaxation of planning rules on the conversion of offices into residential properties could result in the loss of a million square metres of office space across the capital. Outer London is disproportionately affected, her research found.



Readers' comments (5)

  • 'to ensure the pressure for new homes in the capital does not come at the expense of business'

    And there you have the Tory housing policy in a nutshell

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  • Robert Park

    He should also extend this protection to high-streets and local shopping streets. I am literally fed up of seeing viable shop units being converted to flats in London. Just at a time when the market is beginning to embrace the high street again, we have a planning law which makes it easy for cynical developers to pick off these units for their property portfolios. It's actually a tragedy to see, as once residential, these units can never be returned to retail use again.

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  • Seymour Alexander

    The pressure for new homes that Boris dislikes is of course pressure for so-called "affordable" homes. There will always be room in London for luxury homes for his buddies in the Middle East, even if that means building a few less offices,

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  • Current House build (affordable or not) does little to alleviate housing pressures because overseas investors buy the units "off plan" and then refuse to rent them out because they don't want sitting tenants in case they have to liquidise asset quickly. Boris also has no problem "overruling" planning departments in favour of developers (against the wishes of the majority) on issues like Spitalfields market

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    I hear the sound of a stable door being closed, and a horse galloping away into the distance.

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