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Commercial-to-resi conversions risk London office shortage

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City Hall has been warned that new permitted development rights for the conversion of commercial properties to residential could damage the capital’s economic recovery

The London Assembly Planning Committee heard that government plans to ease the protection of employment uses could restrict the availability of offices in the capital and hamper start-up companies by depriving them of the space they need to grow.

Property and planning representatives at a committee meeting this week warned offices could be redeveloped for new homes that are bought as investments and never actually lived in.

The potential risk is greater in the capital because the  value of land for residential use in central parts of the capital is double that for office use

This large disparity also places pressure on vital employment space, such as wharves. Members heard that ‘hope values’ that these facilities, vital for river freight, may be redeveloped for housing has encouraged owners to keep them vacant for years.

The committee also heard a lack of clarity from the government is causing uncertainty for developers and local authorities, which could stop or stall developments progressing.

Nicky Gavron, chair of the London Assembly Planning Committee, said:  ‘Employment space is vulnerable to developers looking to make a quick buck by converting it to housing. It’s not as though London doesn’t have plenty of space for houses – it doesn’t need to sacrifice employment space. Doing so threatens the businesses and jobs London needs to grow.

She added: ‘The Government needs to make its intentions clear to provide certainty to developers. It also needs to make sure its policies don’t threaten employment land with moves for some short-term economic gain at the expense of long-term employment.’


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