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Planning laws tightened to limit office conversions into flats in Brent’s employment areas

PUBLISHED: 11:00 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:00 02 October 2018

York House in Wembley. Picture: Google

York House in Wembley. Picture: Google

Archant

Brent has tightened its planning rules to stop developers converting office and light industrial space into flats without proper scrutiny.

It means anyone looking to convert industrial land into residential homes in key employment areas including Alperton, Neasden, Wembley and Staples Corner will now need to apply for full planning permission. Previously, developers could bypass certain aspects of the council’s normal planning process thanks to relaxed government rules on converting office space.

Brent chiefs have imposed “Article 4” of the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order (England) 2015 on projects.

Brent Council’s planning chief Cllr Shama Tatler said: “Before we activated this opt-out, developers could change properties into residential accommodation in a piecemeal way, without full planning checks on the quality and design of the accommodation, the impact on the local area and the number of affordable homes being provided – and without consideration to the loss of valued businesses which provide jobs for local people.”

In March, an office was converted into 23 studio flats in Sunleigh Road. The land in Alperton had been earmarked by Brent for mixed use development.

York House in Empire Way, Wembley Park, was converted into 360 flats last year even though the council’s “site description” was for a 15-storey office block.

And offices in Iron Bridge Close were turned into 20 studio flats in 2014, which the council’s planning committee may have rejected had it been given a say, as the site was a “strategic industrial location” next to the North Circular.

Cllr Tatler added: “Making developers apply for planning permission won’t stop the new homes that we need from being built, but it will allow us to ensure the new homes meet our standards, that local issues are taken into account, that local people are properly consulted and that we ensure suitable levels of affordable accommodation are secured in each scheme.

“By going the planning route, we also have the opportunity to weigh up the economic benefits and disadvantages of each scheme, to see if the loss of local employment space is acceptable and what the wider benefits might be for Brent residents.”

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