Partial Government Climbdown on Office to Resi Conversions

Announced Today for consultation.

additionally prior approval will now consider the potential impact of the significant loss of the most strategically important office accommodation. To ensure that the ability of the policy to deliver much needed new housing is not undermined, this will be a tightly defined prior approval, and we would welcome suggestions about the specific wording

Keith Holland on Blended Headship Rates and Recessionary Underestimation #Planorak

From Derbyshire Dales EIP

With the recovering economic situation it would be prudent to assume that the low 2011 headship rates are unlikely to remain in place over the whole plan period. It would be sensible to work on the basis that the household formation rate will gradually return to higher levels as the economy recovers. I therefore consider that a “blended” rate that assumes the 2011 rate until 2020 and the higher 2008 rate thereafter is appropriate. Whilst this may be a relatively unsophisticated approach, it is a practical one in the light of the uncertainties about future household formation rates.

Note the stinging criticisms that the council did not consult on its OAN pre submission and hence did not meet the statutory SCI requirement.

A Sad Goodbye to Professor Sir Peter Hall

I hear with great sadness of the death of Sir Peter Hall.  He never really slowed down and arguably his best book was the one he published last year.  No planning academic has ever had the influence of Sir Peter.

Having lived such a long time he was allowed and had the intellectual flexibility to change his mind.  In his youth he was pretty anti-planning and public transport, but his ideas developed.  He was always aware though of the tensions between state actions and anarchic freedoms as in his unmatched history of planning – Cities of Tommorrow.  His great strength was in popularising great thinkers and great practice rather than getting bogged down in rather minor self indulgant research as so many planning and geography academics do.  Hence his relentless popularisation of Howard, Schumpeter and Mumford amongst many others.

He creates a great void that will not be easy to fill.

Talk will turn to how planning should memorialise his contributions.  An award for good journalism by a planning academic, or good research into best practice in international urban planning would be ideas.

Office to Homes Conversions Choking Economic Recovery – FT


Britain’s strong housing market threatens to choke its economic recovery as developers convert an increasing number of offices into homes, reducing the amount of space available for businesses to expand.

Commercial space in the UK has declined at its fastest rate since the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) began its data series in 1998, figures published on Tuesday showed.

 The government eased planning rules to make it easier to convert offices to homes last year, in an attempt to get rid of older, poor-quality offices which are not suitable for modern business use.

But the new rules are disproportionately affecting economically successful areas such as London and the south east where house prices far outpace the value of even high-quality office stock, RICS found.

In the south of England a third of those surveyed by RICS said that conversions to housing were having a substantial impact on the availability of commercial stock in their area. Nationally, the figure was 18 per cent.

UK house prices rose by 10.5 per cent in the year to May according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Prices in London rose by more than 20 per cent.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said: “The pressure in the office sector is being exacerbated particularly in popular locations by the gradual conversion of some secondary space into residential. While making a much-needed contribution to the substantial shortfall of homes, there are understandable concerns that this could be creating a related problem for businesses looking to expand their footprint as economic confidence grows.”

Stuart Robinson, a director of property advisers CBRE, said that as the housing market heats up, the conversion of offices into homes was becoming an increasing problem.

“The mood of local authorities is really beginning to harden against the government’s measures to facilitate changes from offices to residential,” he said. Councils are “deeply concerned about the erosion of office stock and the way it is changing the economic fabric of their areas”, Mr Robinson said.

Westminster Council in London is particularly concerned about the impact on its local economy. House prices in Westminster are among the highest in the country, while the area forms the country’s largest concentration of economic activity.

As a result, the council is set to become one of the first nationally to introduce extra protections for office space for small and medium sized businesses.

Westminster will require developers seeking planning permission to convert offices into homes to replace any lost space that is particularly suitable for SMEs.

Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster Council, said: “Affordable office space is crucial in central London. So we must protect and provide wherever and whenever appropriate.”


Why Boris has a delayed a Strategic London Green Belt Review Till Next Year

The Mayor’s New Infrastructure Plan

“The plan suggests improving rail links to other urban areas in the South East but the mayor rules out building on the green belt as the large amounts of brownfield land within the capital should allow London to accommodate its growth, at least until 2025, within existing boundaries.”

Because that’s 10 years, and plans don’t have to identify land beyond that period according to NPPG. The issue is conveniently punted back till after the next election, just one yer though.  Of course this assumes a ‘liverpool’ approach of 20 years! to clear the backlog.  I don’t think this is applicable.  You can go with a liverpool approach if the panel accepts a large site driven policy, but its the size of deliverability of the sites that matters, it does not affect OAN which is determined prior to determining constraints.  The approach of the FLAP is contrary to the Hunstan Decision – assuming more realistic 10 years to clear the backlog the need requires 68.000 a year and meeting much of the Need outside London’s Boundaries in whatever form.

Thee press have not picked up on this.  The Mayor is not delaying a Green Belt review till 2025, all plan in London have to have a minimum 10 year land allocation.  What the Mayor is announcing is a Green Belt review in 2016 just after he hopes the FLP will be approved.  An entirely cynical time delaying tactic.  In the mean time every plan in ROSE is pout in stasis as they don’t yet know what their DTC OAN overspill is.  What London Boroughs and ROSE LPAs should be asking Boris is whether or not he will be carrying out this review in 2016, because if he is not if any of them adopt a plan this year it will have a shelf life of one year only.