Richmond Council putting stoppers on offices being converted into flats (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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Richmond Council putting stoppers on offices being converted into flats
A move to stop developers converting offices into flats without planning consent is gaining pace as a growing number of areas in the borough will require permission.
The relaxed planning laws introduced by the Government last year meant developers only needed to give the local authority notification of change of use, rather than go through the formal planning process.
Since the change, there have been 215 notifications put forward in the borough which would result in the loss of more than 50,000sq m of office space.
Last year, Richmond Council agreed to remove the rights for change of use from office to residential in 12 key office locations in the borough, including parts of Richmond, Twickenham and Teddington town centres using a power called Article 4.
Any proposal for change of use in those areas will need to go through the formal planning process and now the council is considering extending areas covered by the restrictions.
Councillor Susan Chappell, cabinet member for planning, said the council was extremely concerned about the planning laws.
She said: "Without these planning controls we are already losing valuable employment space, and with it, jobs.
"Supporting our local economy is at the heart of what we do at the council.
"In addition, we cannot ensure that any new housing created without planning permission is of adequate quality, that it includes affordable housing or that it contributes to meeting education and health needs that will be generated."
Last year, a cross-party group of councils, including Richmond, failed in a High Court challenge to reverse the rules.
Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, supported the move to extend the area where developers would need proper planning permission for change of use.
He said: "We are trying to protect from developers coming in, taking offices and flogging them off for gain without any need to make any contribution to schools, to transport, or anything else.
"To my regret, that has been proposed and it is the law brought in by the coalition government - we have tried to stop it and we have nearly a fifth of our office space under threat buy these kind of vulture developments and this is an attempt to stop that."
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