Thursday, 12 December 2019

Council wants to stop conversion of offices

Council wants to stop conversion of offices

OFFICES in Henley could be given protection from being converted into homes.

Henley Town Council has asked South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, to apply an Article 4 direction on offices in the town, which would force developers to go through the normal planning process if they wanted to convert them.

At the moment, office conversions are covered by permitted development rights, which presume planning consent unless there are exceptional reasons, such as flood risk.

The town council hopes the move would protect commercial buildings such as those on the Newtown Road light industrial estate.

In a letter to the district council, town clerk Sheridan Jacklin-Edward says the supply of office space across the district has been shrunk since the Government’s introduction of permitted development rights for commercial units.

He continues: “The effects have been particularly noticeable in Henley and… this does not meet our local needs or compensate for the loss of office space. As well as the permanent loss of valuable office accommodation, the effects of these permitted rights include increasing pressure on parking, prevention of section 106 payments being obtained to offset the increased burden on local infrastructure and the loss of affordable housing contributions.

“The amenity of residential accommodation that can be achieved through converted office space is often much lower than purpose-built residential accommodation.

“The town council is therefore asking the district council to help support us in protecting the local amenity, wellbeing and vibrancy of our town by working with us to introduce an Article 4 direction.”

The use of Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights is limited to situations where it is necessary to protect the local amenity or wellbeing of the area.

The potential harm that the direction is supposed to address should be clearly identified and justified.

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