7 November 2014

Response to planning reforms stresses need for employment space and local decision-making

Brighton & Hove City Council has expressed concerns over government proposals to allow developers and property owners a permanent right to convert office space to residential accommodation without planning permission.

The proposals, part of a consultation into further planning reforms, include extending the right to allow industrial buildings and warehouses to convert to residential accommodation through a similar prior approval process. Councillors will decide on the council's formal response to the consultation at next week’s economic development and culture committee on 13 November.

In May last year 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. In July the council introduced an 'Article 4 Direction' which means that 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.

The current measures in place ensure that permission is still required in areas where employment space is most needed to provide future jobs. Brighton & Hove City Council and their leading partners in economic development in the city remain concerned that the relaxation of planning permission could affect the city’s business growth.

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chair of the economic development and culture committee, said: “It is vitally important that we keep the balance right between homes and jobs, so that people have somewhere to live and work locally.

“Brighton & Hove has the fourth largest growth in the country for private sector jobs and through the planning process we want to help protect employment creation into the future. We believe these proposed changes will also take away the ability of local people and their representatives to have their views considered and take part in local decision-marking.

“With the city spearheading the economic revival of the Greater Brighton region, it would be imprudent to hinder the local authority’s ability to ensure that we have sufficient employment space. While it was important to protect central area business space through the introduction of the Article 4 Direction, further loosening of our ability to influence local decision-making in this important area, could, long term, result in Brighton & Hove becoming a dormitory town.”

Councillor Bowden added: “There are some proposals that we do welcome, for instance giving film companies temporary permitted development rights. That would support our growing local film and TV industry and remove the need for production companies to obtain planning permission when, for example, putting up a film set.”

The council is also in favour of the idea of creating a separate planning use class for betting shops and payday loans shops which would allow better control of potential clusters in the high street and to increase permitted development rights to allow businesses and other organisations to install solar PV on the roofs of non-domestic buildings.

Following the recent publication of a scrutiny report examining the impact of short term holiday lets catering for the hen and stag market, the council also wants the government to look at requiring  owners to apply for planning permission if converting their homes to holiday lets for 10 people or more. This would give residents the opportunity to make representations for or against proposals and allow them to be considered against a set of agreed criteria. Currently only central London can require people to apply for planning permission for holiday lets under ‘change of use.’

More information

Find out more about the government consultation

Read the reports for the Economic Development & Culture Committee (this report is agenda item number 40)