The City of London could lose 13 million square feet of office space – equivalent to 165 football pitches – if the Coalition’s proposed changes to the Town and Country Planning Order goes ahead, says a report.
If implemented, the planning reforms will relax the rules for change of use from business to residential. The City of London Corporation, which commissioned Quod Research to carry out the report, claims this could threaten the Square Mile’s status as a world leading business hub.
The Corporation is now calling on the Government to make the Square Mile exempt from a change in the law, arguing that market forces currently reward conversions for residential use and valuable office space would be threatened as a result.
Policy chairman at the Corporation, and LondonlovesBusiness.com columnist Stuart Fraser said: “Attempts to make the planning system more responsive to social and economic needs are to be welcomed and will be appropriate in certain areas.
“However, this report makes clear that reforms allowing for the uncontrolled change of use from business to residential would not be appropriate in the City of London.
“Changes of use would undermine the City’s ability to provide a fitting home for a range of businesses from the largest global banks to small, local SMEs.”
A City of London spokesperson added that proposed changes threaten to “undo the achievements of more than 30 years of town planning strategies which have been successively endorsed by planning inspectors and the GLA.”
The Coalition’s planning reforms are part of a raft of reforms attached to the National Policy Planning Framework. These have met with widespread opposition from all sides of the political spectrum – dividing the major parties and provoking many backbenchers to voice dissent.
Environmental groups such as the National Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England are opposed to the changes, arguing that they will lead to more development of the countryside.
However, those in favour of the reforms argue they will provide an essential boost for businesses by cutting red tape and easing bureaucracy.
Commenting on the first full draft of the framework, Katia Hall, CBI chief policy director said: “Cutting back the reams of planning policy and guidance we currently have makes absolute sense. A clear, digestible guide to local planning decisions will ensure that local authorities are well-informed about national priorities and the need for development.”