DCLG cocks up and backs down in Islington A4D row

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A row has erupted between Islington Borough Council and the Government over local approaches to housing.

Last year Islington became the first council in the country to try to remove government-given rights for local developers to convert offices into flats without planning permission. Planning minister Nick Boles ultimately revoked the Article 4 direction this July on the grounds that Islington was failing to deliver on housing targets.

However the secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles has now agreed to overturn his department’s decision in the next few weeks. The Department for Communities and Local Government has acknowledged it made ‘a mistake’ by failing to take all types of housing.

Cllr James Murray, Islington’s executive member for housing and development, said: ‘I am pleased Eric Pickles accepts his department made a mistake, and I hope this means we can now have a proper discussion about how we can protect jobs and provide decent, affordable homes in Islington.’

He added that the policy was having a ‘damaging effect’ on Islington, resulting in the borough ‘losing jobs but getting lots of one-bed and bedsit flats, with no affordable housing or other community benefit’.

‘No-one would deny that London needs new homes. We are one of the top boroughs nationally for building new homes – we’re actually building thousands of genuinely affordable homes for social rent,’ Cllr Murray added.

In response, housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said Islington was ‘out of touch’ if it thought ‘more one-bedroom and studio flats in central London for young people are a bad thing’.

Lewis added that the Government’s development reforms were ‘providing badly needed homes, especially in London where there is a particularly acute need for more housing’.

‘It is disappointing that Islington is using public funds to try to oppose new homes for Londoners,’ he said.

‘Their latest judicial review attempt relates to a technical point on housing numbers in London. We are happy to have a dialogue with the council on these issues, but we have been clear about the real need for more homes, especially in London.

‘These reforms are helping promote brownfield regeneration, protect the countryside and increase housing supply at no cost to the taxpayer,’ Lewis concluded.

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