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Cable rips into Coalition’s 'perverse' office-to-resi reforms


Business secretary Vince Cable has criticised planning reforms introduced by his own government as ‘perverse’ because of their effect on employment space.

Speaking at a Liberal Democrat conference fringe event, Cable said the government’s relaxation of permitted-development rights was resulting in ‘terribly unbalanced development’.

The temporary rule relaxation came into force in May last year and removes the need for full planning permission to convert offices into homes in many cases. A consultation over the summer proposed broadening the scope of building uses included in the rule-relaxation, and making the changes permanent.

Speaking at an event organised by think-tank Localis, Cable blasted the policy, which he blamed on ‘the other side of the coalition’, and in particular cabinet colleague communities secretary Eric Pickles.

‘In an area like mine in south west London, large swathes of commercial property are in the process of disappearing so that people can build converted flats on them,’ he said.

‘Now you could say, ‘well you are desperate for the housing’ – which we are, but it does mean that there is nowhere for small firms to operate from, so we are creating the homes but driving out employment which is perverse and it just means you’re getting terribly unbalanced development’.

Cable also floated the idea of promoting development on golf courses, singling out those in leafy Surrey as a particular example, The Spectator reported.

Cable’s Twickenham constituency falls within the bounds of Richmond Borough Council, which has seen particularly high numbers of ‘prior approval’ notifications informing the authority of plans to convert office space into homes.

It said that during the first 12 months of the rule relaxation, it received 215 such notifications, potentially resulting in the loss of almost 20 per cent of the borough’s office space.


Readers' comments (2)

  • The consultation mentioned above was very poorly publicised. The AJ should alert all its readers and suggest they request that this consultation, which finished a few weeks ago, be reopened and widely publicised. Most affected people have had no idea that they were in a position to comment. A major issue is that fully occupied offices are being targeted by developers and owners keen on a profit, rather than empty unwanted buildings.

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    Although the consultation was misleadingly titled 'Technical' when in fact it has far-reaching policy implications, and was released in the first week of August, this has not prevented the ACA from meeting and submitting a full set of comments in response. Many of the these and other recent reforms of the planning system [though not all!] reflect the ACA's planning manifesto of 2006 The RIBA signed up to some ACA proposals but, wrongly as now shown, thought others went too far.

    Brian Waters
    -----------------vice president Association of Consultant Architects, 9 October 2014

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