The leader of Richmond Council is furious at the Government’s “foolish and unnecessary” decision to allow automatic planning permission for offices to change into homes.

In December, Richmond Council, with Islington Council, lost a joint High Court challenge against the change in planning law, which was introduced in May 2013.

Lord True criticised the Government and said the change would see an increase in job losses.

He said: “We warned the Government privately and publicly before the change was made that in an area with high land values like ours this foolish and unnecessary policy would lead to the loss of vital office space, as developers rushed to cash in on the green light given to them by this short-term thinking.

“Sadly Mr Boles did not listen. We then tried to stop the introduction of the policy by judicial review, but sadly failed.”

Richmond Council has received 140 prior approvals for automatic permitted development, which could see a loss of almost 50 businesses and 20,000sq m of office space.

Lord True said: “We are also moving to try to block the loophole by a so-called Article 4 direction, but this process is subject to clearance by the very ministers who have imposed this policy in the first place and takes months, if the risk of compensation claims is to be averted.

“Meanwhile, businesses are being turned out and jobs lost.

“I appeal to the Government to think again about the impact of this policy in areas of high land value before irreversible damage is done.

“It gives me no pleasure to criticise the Government but I am elected to stand up for the interests of local people, irrespective of party, and I will continue to do so, so long as I am leader.

“I wish that whatever Government comes—Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat—will be localist and will listen to advice from those with local experience and understanding.”

The council is putting together a file on the impact of the changes and wants to hear from any business that has been threatened with, or has suffered, termination or eviction due to the policy change.

Anyone affected should contact Susan Shaw, retail and business champion, by emailing or calling 020 8831 6381.

  • Has this change in law affected your business? Leave a comment below or call our newsdesk on 020 8744 4274.