12 March 2014

Proposal to protect office space moves to next stage

Proposal to protect office space moves to next stage


Councillors will discuss the proposal to protect office space from being converted to housing without planning permission at the Policy & Resources Committee on 20 March.

Brighton & Hove City Council consulted businesses and landowners last year on placing an article 4 direction on certain areas of the city so that change of use from office to residential would require planning permission.

Following the consultation, including a constructive workshop with representatives from commercial agents and business interests, the council has amended the proposed areas. If agreed, the council will carry out a further six weeks’ consultation on the revised boundary.

Last year the committee approved making an article 4 direction covering central Brighton, New England Quarter and London Road area, together with two key office sites in the Edward Street Quarter and City Park Hove.

The recommendation councillors will consider is to remove most of Western Road and the Brighton Centre and area to the west. The council listened to businesses and recognised that Western Road is less commercially attractive for office use and that Brighton Centre and the area to the west are not office areas.

Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership supports the council as local planning authority keeping control over employment space in key areas.

Councillor Jason Kitcat, chair of the Policy & Resources Committee, said: “As a council we have to try and balance the needs of the city which means making sure there is much-needed employment space as well as housing for the future. We recognise this is a big challenge but allowing office space to be converted into housing without planning permission could result in a shortage of jobs, as well as taking away the opportunity for local people to have their views heard.

“We also have a pressing need for affordable housing and the planning process allows us to negotiate low-cost homes for local people who otherwise would never be able to afford to live in the city.

“The areas we want to protect are very well located for business as they offer affordable workspace for new companies. Many creative, digital and information technology businesses are in these areas and the sector is growing at twice the national average.”

Between 1 June 2013 and 6 February 2014 there were 61 prior approval applications to turn offices into homes in the city and 28 have been approved. If all were implemented it would lead to a loss of nearly 12,000 square metres of office space, which is four times the annual average rate of office losses in recent times. The council does have some say in whether these are approved, but can only decline them on grounds of lack of transport links, contamination or flooding.

The article 4 direction is expected to come into force on 25 July.


Notes for editors

  • A recent Centre for Cities Report (‘Beyond the High Street: Why our city centres really matter’ September 2013) holds up central Brighton as an example of a successful city centre due to the centralisation of private sector jobs which has not only driven overall city wide private sector job creation but has also helped to support shops and other commercial activities by creating a sustained weekday footfall.
  • In September 2013 the council responded to a request from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for further information in support of the article 4 direction. A recent ministerial statement (6th February 2014) suggests that the Secretary of State does not consider the council has applied the direction disproportionately.
  • Brighton and Hove is one of the fastest growing economies in the south east. Over the past 15 years job growth has exceeded the regional and national average. Forecasts show that the city has the potential to generate 20,000 jobs over the next two decades, of which about 7,900 (40%), will require office premises.
  • In May, 2013 the government introduced a temporary change in planning law that removed the need to obtain planning permission for change of use from office space to residential. Brighton & Hove City Council is the first in the country to bring forward a proposal for an article 4 direction in some areas of the city to ensure that owners of office buildings would still need planning permission to change office buildings to residential use.
  • Brighton & Hove was one of around 160 councils to apply to the government for an exemption to the policy as a practical way of protecting businesses and jobs in the city but only 17 local authorities were successful. The Economic Partnership, Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership and Wired Sussex all supported the council’s application for an exemption.
  • The government’s new rules apply until 2016 when they will be reviewed.