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Lambeth vows to protect workspace

Words: Laura Edgar

Lambeth Council has issued an Article 4 Direction that aims to prevent offices from being turned into residential units without going through the full planning system.

The council said the move will protect workspace in key parts of the borough and ensure that economic growth, job creation and a “thriving” business community can flourish in the borough.

Additionally, it aims to make sure that housing developments in the borough are up to standard, provide affordable homes and are built in appropriate places.

The Article 4 Direction will not put a stop to all office-to-residential conversion plans, just ensure that applications go through the full planning process. It covers Brixton town centre, sites in and around Clapham town centre and 10 of the borough’s designated key industrial and business areas.

It will come into force in September.

A number of other London borough have issued Article 4 directions recently. Hackney Council is looking to protect the borough’s launderettes and warehouses, while both Southwark Council and Wandsworth Council have used the measure to protect pubs. Westminster City Council issued an Article 4 direction to prevent its high streets from being overrun by non-retail businesses like estate agents. It aims to ensure that all conversions of shops to services such as estate agents, employment agencies and bureaux de change on Westminster’s high streets require planning permission.

Since permitted development rights came into force in May 2013, Lambeth Council said it has lost more than 20,000 square metres of office floor space.

Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for business, culture and regeneration, said the direction is an “important step” to protect both the business environment and residents.

“Since the office to residential permitted development rights were introduced by government we’ve seen the loss of thousands of square metres of office space – that’s potentially hundreds of jobs from the borough.

“We’ve also seen designs for residential units with no windows, or in locations that are simply unsuitable for people to live peacefully. Any residential developments as a result of these rights contain no affordable housing as they don’t require planning permission.

“The council is best placed to decide what is appropriate in terms of changing the use of certain buildings in certain areas and this Article 4 direction allows us to make those decisions properly.”

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