Islington Council acts to stop ‘seven Shards’ worth of offices being turned into luxury flats

Office blocks in City Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

Office blocks in City Road. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Islington Council has moved to stop “seven Shards” worth of offices in the south of the borough being turned into luxury flats.

The town hall currently has an exemption to a rule brought in by the government in 2013 that allows offices to be turned into homes without planning permission – meaning there would be no affordable housing quota.

But that exemption, which covers the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) where 70 per cent of the borough’s job are located, runs out in May, when the government is making the “permitted development” right permanent.

The only way to stop developers having free reign in the area in “one of the world’s most attractive business locations” is to bring in an Article 4 direction ahead of the exemption being lifted, which means planning permission will be required. And last week the council’s top table voted to do just that.

The executive is wasting no time in getting the ball rolling having seen the damage that can be done in the north of the borough, outside of the exempt area.

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The Archway Tower office block has been turned into 118 luxury flats for rent, while Hill House down the road is providing another 150 flats ranging from £500,000 for a studio and £725,000 for a two-bed.

Islington’s business chief Cllr Asima Shaikh said: “This might seem like a small legal change but the sheer scale of the threat this poses to the London and national economy – not to mention local jobs and businesses – is incredible. Islington’s share of office space in the CAZ would fill more than seven Shards on its own.

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“We’ve already seen the huge impact permitted development right has had elsewhere in Islington since 2013, with landlords converting more than six football pitches’ worth of office space into residential, capable of supporting around 3,000 jobs – and with absolutely no affordable housing provided.

“Many small and medium-sized businesses and charities have been turfed out, jobs have been lost and the local economy has suffered as a result.

“That is utterly wrong and we cannot let this happen here.”

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