25 July 2014

New regulation to protect office space comes into force

The government has asked that changes be made to Brighton & Hove’s ‘Article 4 Direction’ which is designed to protect office space in central Brighton and at other key employment sites.

The purpose and the area of the article 4 direction are unchanged by the Secretary of State’s intervention. From 25 July developers must obtain planning permission to change the use of their offices to residential space in central Brighton, New England Quarter and London Road, as well as the Edward Street Quarter and City Park office sites.

However developers that have already secured prior approval to convert their office building to residential under the government scheme before 25 July 2014 will not be affected and this has been made clear by modifications to the wording of the direction requested by the Secretary of State. Further details are on the council’s website and there will be a public notice next week.

The government introduced a temporary change in planning law in May 2013 that removed the need to obtain planning permission for change of use from office space to residential.

Brighton & Hove City Council and their leading partners in economic development of the city feared that the relaxation of planning permission could affect the city’s business growth. It decided to introduce a measure that would mean permission is still required in areas where employment space was most needed to provide future jobs. A proposal was drawn up and consulted on.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, chair of the city’s planning committee, said: “We notified the Secretary of State about the article 4 direction and are pleased that he has accepted this measure without changing any of the proposed areas. It shows that we have made the right decision in making sure our key employment sites are protected. If we lost even 10% of our city centre offices the impact would be enormous – 700 office jobs would go. We have the 4th largest growth in the country for private sector jobs and our decision will help protect job creation into the future.

“We recognise the pressing need for new homes but have to find a balance between homes and jobs. Every planning application is considered on its merits, and there will be applications suitable for some housing. The planning process also enables local communities to have a say on proposals as well as giving planning officers the opportunity to negotiate community benefits and affordable housing if change of use is recommended.”

Requiring planning permission in the selected areas will not mean that office space can never be converted to homes. Annual average losses of 3,000 square metres of office space to other uses shows that the council considers change of use applications on merit against local planning policies.