Islington gears up for battle over Archway Tower
London council to challenge new planning rules
A London council has said it will mount a landmark challenge to stop plans to turn a former office block into new residential flats.
Islington council said it is the first in the country to try and overturn some of the permitted development rights introduced by the government at the end of May.
Source: Creative Commons
Under these, any office building can be turned into residential – although some local authorities such as the City of London are exempt from the rules.
Developer Essential Living has asked architects Grid to come up with plans to turn the Archway Tower above Archway tube station into 100 flats which it will then rent out.
But Islington’s executive member for housing and development, councillor James Murray, said: “There’s a real danger that small offices across the borough will be lost to private housing and tower blocks will have as many flats as possible crammed into them. Archway Tower is already being lined up to have a large number of small, sub-standard bedsits squashed into it, with no affordable housing.
“This is not right for Islington and so we have decided to challenge the government. We have started the legal process to try and overturn the government’s charges.”
The council has written to the government setting out its grounds for a legal challenge. “The next step is to formally file a claim for judicial review,” a spokesman said.
The tower has been empty since last year when previous tenant, the Office of the Public Guardian, which is part of the Justice ministry, moved to Birmingham.
Essential Living bought the leasehold to the 16-storey block from Valad Property Group last month. It declined to comment on Islington’s action but at the time of its deal with Valad, the firm’s executive director Scott Hammond said: “We are determined to offer renters the quality and service currently missing from the fragmented private rented sector which are largely owned by individual landlords.”
The 8,000sq m block was completed in 1963 and was used by the Department for Social Security in the 1980s.
NEW RULES AND THEIR IMPACT
Islington council applied for exemption from the government’s planning changes which include change of use for buildings from office to residential.
The government had told local authorities in England they could apply for exemption if they could demonstrate the new rights would result in harmful economic impacts.
Islington is one of 17 authorities – mainly in London – that has some form of exemption – but only for the area in the borough which nudges the City fringe. Archway Tower, at the opposite end, is not covered by the exemption.
The new rules cover homes, offices and shops and allow certain changes to be made without submitting planning permission. “These changes will bring empty and underused buildings back into productive use,” communities secretary Eric Pickles said.