ATCM calls on members to get their MPs to sign Early Day Motions to Protect Offices in England

Dear ATCM Member,
In May 2013, the government temporarily deregulated the planning system in England to enable the conversion of offices into housing without any planning consent. On March 11th the Government laid a Statutory Instrument (SI) to extend or make permanent these permitted development rights (PDR). This current proposal will apply PDR not just to offices, but also to light industrial premises and launderettes.

Laundrettes & light industrial premises

The addition of these two new PDR categories is a concern for ATCM. While there may be a case for turning either to residential, we feel this should be within the power of the local planning authority to decide, especially when both may be housing functional businesses that are of importance to the local community.

Contact your MP and request they sign two new Early Day Motions

Opposition to the permanent changes to PDR has been launched. Early Day Motion 1279 is requesting the complete annulment of the changes to PDR, and Early Day Motion 1328 is seeking to protect Launderettes from having PDR permanently applied to them. You can lobby your MP to sign these Early Day Motions, which will ensure that pressure will be maintained to reverse this policy.

We have provided a template letter that you can e-mail to your MP, simply download HERE. To find the name and details of your local MP follow this link

With best wishes,

Shanaaz Carroll
ATCM CEO (Interim)

The case against making PDR permanent

As always in complex cases such as this, the theory and practice have varied widely across the country. The locations where office vacancies are high are not consistent with the locations where it is profitable for landlords to convert to residential - there is no shortage of councils keen to bring empty units back into use, especially as housing, but other factors such as the costs of conversion, building regulations and the potential return on investment mean these are slow in materialising. In addition, the areas where office demand is high are often the areas where landlords can gain substantially from conversions.
Consequently, this permitted development right is being applied inappropriately, forcing the closure of offices that are important employment hubs. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors reported the fastest decline in office space since its records began, especially in the East, South East and Greater London areas where population growth and residential prices are at their highest.
We were originally led to believe that this permitted development right was temporary. In London the policy has had significantly  negative effects, with growing evidence that suggests local job prospects and small businesses are being tangibly harmed. The Greater London Authority estimates that four million square metres of office space could be at risk with a PDR extension, which could mean the loss of up to 340,000 jobs across the capital.
  • In the London Borough of Camden, 2,500 jobs have already been lost as a result of office space being converted to homes and small businesses being ‘turfed out’ of the neighbourhood.
  • In the City of Westminster there has been a net loss of 167,000 sq. metres of office space to other uses, 75% of which was to residential.
  • Despite also being in the Central Activities Zone, London Bridge is shortly to lose Fielden House (3,500 sq. metres of office commercial space) and Capital House (4,079 sq. metres of education support facilities.) This represents roughly 700 jobs located in these spaces over 10 businesses.
  • Connect House in Mitcham is being transformed into residential units at the expense of a large SME community.
  • 2,705 sq. metres of office space in Burford Rd, Stratford E15, containing 23 SMEs is under threat.
  • In Bermondsey, decreasing office space available means that landlords are increasing rents in what space is available, in some instances by 75%.