Islington Council lead challenge against office to flats conversions free-for-all

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council's executive member for housing

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council's executive member for housing - Credit: Archant

Islington town hall is leading the charge against new Government rules which let developers turn offices into flats virtually at will.

Under the new legislation, brought in at the end of May, residents and local authorities are powerless to object to or impose conditions on the type of housing to be created from office buildings. Developers do not need planning permission and have no obligation to notify people in advance. Islington Council says it is not even able to demand that new homes are affordable or meet basic space standards.

Already Islington has seen 27 prior approval cases since the law changed on May 30.

These have resulted in the loss of almost 17,000 square metres of office floorspace, an area in which around 1,400 people could work.

In some cases, says the town hall, small businesses and charities have been evicted.

Now the council, along with fellow London boroughs Camden, Richmond, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Ealing and Sutton, are heading to the High Court in December to take a legal stand against the move.

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “The government’s changes to the planning laws are already having a detrimental effect on London boroughs.

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“In Islington we have firm plans for building good quality, affordable housing. But the government’s changes are undermining what we’re trying to do by allowing developers to bypass these plans in a reckless free-for-all.

“The change to the law means that any office space can be converted into poor quality private homes with no affordable housing. There’s a real danger that small offices across the borough will be lost to private housing, and tower blocks will have as many flats as possible crammed into them.

“Developers have already begin to exploit this, with the iconic Archway Tower on the verge of having a large number of small, sub-standard bedsits squashed into it, with no affordable housing at all.

“We are determined to fight this and I am glad that we have the support of many other boroughs in bringing this important legal challenge.”