Council plans to stop the rush to turn offices into flats

Croydon david levison

Pic: David Levison

In an attempt to stop the development of substandard housing, Croydon council are bidding to pull out of a law which allows property developers to convert offices into flats without planning permission.

Permitted development rights were brought in by the government last year, and since then 1074 out of 1236 units in Croydon approved under the right were ‘substandard residential accommodation’ when compared to the Mayor of London’s space standards. Croydon Council wants to protect its office spaces, as well as ‘provide new homes for Croydon residents’.

Councillor Alison Butler, cabinet member for Homes and Regeneration, said: “We want to give certainty to investors and developers about our support for office developments.

“We are determined that all our homes, from whatever sector, should be decent and fit for purpose. In addition, the loss of office space is also resulting in a loss of jobs and opportunities for local people.”

The council has informed the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, that from 10 September 2015 it intends to invoke Article 4 which revokes the permitted development right. However, Croydon council has failed to opt out of permitted development twice already, once when the powers were introduced, and again in July this year.

Martin Skinner, chief executive of Inspired Asset Management, a property investor and developer, told the Croydon Advertiser that  it ‘would be a silly step to take’ if the council revoke the rights. He said: “Any suggestion that the quality of our homes is ‘sub-standard’ would be totally unfair. These are top-notch apartments; they’re just much more efficiently designed. I won’t be investing anything more in the area if they do that and I’m sure others won’t either.”

However, Seb Klier, from Generation Rent, an organisation that is campaigning for ‘professionally managed, secure, decent and affordable privately rented homes’, argues that ‘development should not come at the cost of quality or design’.

He said: “The UK already builds the smallest homes in Europe, and we need to be thinking about new housing that people actually want to live in for the long-term. When a small flat on the edge of London can retail at just under £200,000, the housing market has truly inflated out of the reach of ordinary people.”

He added: “Until we start building permanently affordable, high-quality homes outside of the current housing bubble, this crisis will continue.”

Generation Rent has also proposed their own policy “to create tens of thousands of permanently affordable homes each year with private investment” called Buying out of the Bubble.

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