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Islington Council takes action to safeguard vital space for businesses

Islington Council is taking action to protect vital employment space which is at risk of being turned into expensive homes under changes to planning rules.

In May 2013, the government introduced a planning rule which allows offices to change to housing without planning permission.

However, currently office space in Islington that is part of London’s Central Activities Zone – nearest to central London - is protected from these residential permitted development rights (PDR). This means landlords can’t convert business buildings to residential accommodation in this area without first applying for planning permission, and without meeting usual planning requirements such as providing affordable housing.

But the Government is planning to lift this protection on 30th May 2019 – meaning vital employment space could be lost as buildings are turned into homes for private sale, with no affordable housing provision.

Now Islington Council has announced it will introduce an Article 4 Direction, a legal step which will continue the protection, stopping employment space being lost to private housing.

Islington Council has also written a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, together with other London boroughs, explaining its position.

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Islington Council’s executive member for economic development, said: “Businesses are vital to Islington, bringing jobs and opportunities to our community.

“We’re challenging this planning change because in other parts of Islington it has directly led to the closure of functioning family businesses. Smaller businesses are a huge part of the economy in Islington, and really important employers of local people.

“Also London’s wider Central Activity Zone, which includes parts of Islington, is a vital part of the national economy. We’re concerned that removing protection for employment space in the Central Activity Zone will damage the economy in Islington, London and nationally.

“Also, permitted development rights allow landlords to convert buildings to housing without any affordable housing at all, making London’s housing crisis worse.”

The council launched the Article 4 Direction process on 20 March. The process takes about a year and allows for local communities and businesses to comment on this measure. For more information see the Islington Council website.

NOTES TO EDITOR:

When the PDR was introduced in May 2013 in the rest of Islington outside of the CAZ, it quickly led to a large loss of office space, often more affordable workspace occupied by smaller businesses and charities. 

Islington Council estimates that within a few years more than 53,000 sq m – equivalent to more than seven football pitches - of office space was lost to residential. Islington Council estimates that around half of this space was occupied, which meant that existing businesses and organisations had to move out. No affordable housing of any kind was provided.

Significant office buildings in Islington that have been converted to residential under PDR since 2013 include Archway Tower and Whittington House, a fully-occupied office building on Holloway Road that was developed into 39 flats. Because of PDR no affordable housing was provided as part of either scheme.

For further information please contact: 
Chris Roe, Media Manager 
Tel: 020 7527 8751 
Alternative contact - Media team: 020 7527 2307 
Out of hours: 07769 163303 
Email: chris.roe@islington.gov.uk 
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