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Westminster fights loss of office space

Words: Laura Edgar
Office space / iStock_000087395273

Westminster City Council has launched an Article 4 Direction to protect office space as it looks to prevent a continued decline.

The council said it lost over 300,000 square feet of office space to redevelopment or conversion to residential properties between 2013 and 2017.

The government introduced permitted development rights on a temporary basis initially, in an attempt to meet the demand for housing. The measure has since been made permanent, with councils having to install an Article 4 Direction to exclude areas from the measure.

Areas that are currently exempt from permitted development will not benefit from the protection from 31 May 2019 unless an Article 4 Direction is issued.

Westminster’s Reed House and Riverwalk House have both been converted from large office blocks into luxury flats without affordable housing. The council is seeking to reverse this trend.

The Article 4 Direction aims to ensure that full planning applications are required so the council can make decisions based on all relevant issues and, where necessary, protect office space.

Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for planning and public realm at the council, said: “We are committed to ensuring the right kind of growth in Westminster, and this includes ensuring the continued prosperity of our residents, of London as a whole and, indeed, of the whole country. We are also determined to use our planning powers to maintain our unique neighbourhoods. This is the approach we are taking in revising our City Plan.

“We have experienced a rapid loss of office space in Westminster. It’s a worrying trend. Not only does this change the character and feel of our communities but our reputation as political and professional centre relies upon maintaining the office spaces which allow business to flourish.

“This policy helps us to strike a balance and ensure that as well as delivering more housing we can also retain suitable professional space for businesses to operate or order to capitalise on investment such as the soon-to-open Elizabeth Line.”

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Other London councils have also issued Article 4 Directions, to protect pubs and launderettes:

London council protects its pubs from conversion

London council sets out protection for variety on high streets

Southwark to protect its pubs

Hackney to protect launderettes 

Image credit | iStock