Hackney shuts door on offices-to-homes plan

Mayor Pipe and, top, Shoreditch in south Hackney, where residential values exceed commercial
Pipe and, top, Shoreditch in south Hackney, where residential values exceed commercial

A GOVERNMENT plan to free office space for housing is being vigorously opposed by Hackney council.

A thousand  landowners have been contacted to help the council to press the Government to let the borough opt out of Planning Minister Nick Boles’s proposal to enable commercial space to be let as residential.

Hackney has joined forces against the proposal with the Corporation of London, the City’s ruling body, which is likely to win exemption.

Hackney and the big-money people are worried, according to property commentator Peter Bill, about the amount of office space that might be lost from the northern edge of the city within Hackney borough.

Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea councils also seek exemption from the rules.

Hackney wants eventually to match council spending with income from commercial property ventures on public land in the south of the borough.

Hackney regeneration chief Andrew Sissons wrote to Hackney property owners that the Boles legislation, due to come into force in April, would give owners the right to change the land use to residential without planning permission. He told them: “The potential impact of this on the borough’s commercial space is huge. As you will all know, the price of residential land is considerably higher than commercial land.”

Many developers and landowners would consider changing the use of their land, which could have a massive impact on businesses in Hackney as commercial space was converted to dwelling space. This would force businesses to relocate, causing unemployment locally.

Commercial sales values in the south Hackney are about a third of residential.

Sissons told Loving Dalston that all the 200 responses to his letter had been positive.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the planning measures would ensure that empty and under-used offices could be “swiftly converted” to housing to make the most of previously developed land, providing homes for local people. “It will help,” he said: “to create jobs in the construction industry and to regenerate our town centres by increasing footfall in high streets.”

Nick Boles said: “These new changes ensure the very best use is made of our existing buildings to provide new homes.”

Hackney council says it is carrying out “one of London’s biggest housing regeneration programmes, including the creation of 2,400 new homes for social renting, shared ownership and private sale over 10 years and refurbishment of existing housing stock”.

Mayor Jules Pipe told Loving Dalston: “The Government’s proposals present a huge risk to places like Hackney, where high land values, residential desirability and and a shortage of housing stock combine to make the area highly attractive to housing developers.”

Old Street roundabout: oodles of unlet office space
Old Street roundabout: oodles of unlet office space

Hackney had a valuable “business base” and the council had encouraged digital and creative industries in the borough, as well as town-centre economies.

“This Government policy,” he said, “could see the creative cluster being torn apart… and could have a huge impact on local jobs… could stop growth in its tracks and risk turning the borough into a dormitory village full of luxury apartments that do nothing to tackle the affordable-housing crisis.”

David Altheer 250213

* If the Changes in Permitted Development Rights – Commercial to Residential legislation worries you, you could contact Andrew.Sissons@hackney.gov.uk, and see the Government’s Consultation outcome. (“outcome”? Yes, even the Civil Service uses Wafflespeak. — Ed.)

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink that will open a separate window with further information, a service possibly unique to Loving Dalston. If a link no longer works, it is probably because the site’s owner has failed to maintain it.

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