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Islington’s housing chief challenges government over damaging plans that give developers a ‘free for all’

Islington Council has become the first council in the country to take action to overturn the Tory-led government’s planning policy which will have a devastating effect on Islington’s economy. The council has made an Article 4 direction to effectively overturn some of the permitted development rights introduced by the government on 30 May.

Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing & Development said: “In Islington we’ve got firm plans for stopping too many betting shops and payday lenders, for protecting local jobs, and for building 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 government’s changes mean we won’t be able to stop our high streets being flooded with payday loan companies – and any office space can be converted into poor quality private homes with no affordable housing at all.

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. Archway Tower is already being lined up to have a large number of small, sub-standard bedsits squashed into it, with no affordable housing.

This is not right for Islington and so we have decided to challenge the government. We have started the legal process to try and overturn the government’s changes.

Islington Council is challenging the government’s permitted development rights in two ways: by issuing an ‘Article 4 direction’ to bring some of these powers back under council control, meaning that a planning application will be required; and by seeking a judicial review of the ‘office to residential’ rule and the way in which the government decision was made on granting exemptions.

The threat is not just to empty office accommodation in Islington: the high value of residential property means that office-owners may be tempted to end the leases of existing businesses so the offices can be converted. This will push up office rents and price out small businesses or charities – and having fewer businesses means fewer jobs. Under the government’s revised General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) local residents and councils are powerless to object to, prevent, or impose conditions on certain types of development including:

* The change of existing shops, dentists, pubs and other uses over to a betting shop or pay day loan business;

* The change of any office building into housing.

 

Neither of these types of conversion now need planning permission – meaning that residents’ rights to be notified in advance and to raise any objection are swept away.

Several other councils have expressed an interest in joining Islington’s potential legal action.

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