Consultation begins on new planning directions to help halt the conversion of offices

Date: 
Monday, 17 June, 2019
Number: 
19-43

New planning directions are to be introduced to reduce the number of offices and industrial premises being converted into housing in Harlow.

These directions will cover industrial areas and the town centre and will remove the right to Permitted Development.

Permitted Development allows landowners to convert offices and industrial premises into housing without the need for planning permission from Harlow Council.

Article 4 directions would see landowners having to go through the normal full planning application process – a process over which the council has greater control.

Statutory consultation with land and building owners started this week for the Templefields area. Consultations will follow in other areas.

The new direction can only cover any new developments and cannot be applied retrospectively to offices which have already been converted like Terminus House.

The move comes following councillors and residents’ being concerned about other councils using converted offices in Harlow to accommodate individuals and families in inappropriate locations. There is a cross party support on the Council for action to be taken to try and reduce future permitted developments.

Councillor Danny Purton, Harlow Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, said:

“We understand the pressure councils are under to meet the demand for affordable and social housing. However, we cannot condone the use of office blocks or any other business premises, being converted into residential accommodation in inappropriate locations and being used to house other councils’ residents.

“We are concerned by the disregard certain councils have towards their residents, who are not only rehoused in an area where they have no family or close connections, but also in a location where there are no adequate services.

“Since Permitted Development came into effect, Harlow has been struggling to keep up with the arrival of new residents who have moved into the converted office blocks. This is due to a lack of infrastructure, such as roads, schools and GPs, to which we have not received any extra funding for in order to support our rapidly growing town. This has especially had a detrimental impact on vulnerable people and families who have been forced to move without any supportive services put into place.

“This is an important step towards us regaining control on the development of our town, and protecting the loss of employment space, in a way that continues to support our current residents and ensures the appropriate infrastructure is in place for those who choose to live here in the future.”