FT – Government backtracks on offices-to-homes plan

FT – So after endless warnings it wouldn’t work, the DCLG at first fighting off Treasury attempts to force it, initial supporters such as oris and Vince Cable fiercely fighting it, the government finally admits it didn’t work – simply because everything planning and housing wise the Policy Exchange Dumb tank proposes is tested and has to be proven wrong because the government doesn’t trust any one else’s ideas and is too dumb to realise that the last body they should be listening to is Britain’s dumbest dumb tank with an unenviable world record beating record of clusterfuck disastrous policy failures,  So will Alex ‘Half Baked’ Norton the author of this policy and now number 1o’s housing adviser, and author of pretty much every disaster in waiting such as the vacant buildings credit, The NPPF and the Starter Homes initiative now resign his head in shame, totally disgraced or will he prove Parkinson’s law and get a promotion?

Plans to extend developers’ right to convert offices into homes have been abandoned by the government after a backlash led by central London boroughs, business leaders and London mayor Boris Johnson.

Rules were relaxed in 2013 to make it easier for developers to convert empty offices into homes but a large proportion of conversions involved occupied offices, triggering fears that established businesses were being evicted.

 Westminster has lost 5 per cent of its office space to residential use since the policy change came into effect, a report last year found — enough space for 78,000 workers.

The change was originally introduced for a three-year period but Whitehall last year proposed to make it permanent. However, it has now quietly dropped this idea, an explanatory memo released by the government this week reveals.

Responses to a government consultation carried out last year had raised “concern on the future availability of business premises, the impact on surrounding businesses and the quality of the new dwellings”, according to the memo.

The government will “further consider the case for extending the office to residential reforms”, communities secretary Eric Pickles said this week — but that will have to wait until after the general election.

Mr Johnson warned last year that making it easier to convert offices to homes “threatens the future of the City”.

The government’s high street champion Mary Portas and business leaders also lined up against the measure, arguing that clusters of creative and design businesses in particular were being damaged.

The news comes too late for the businesses of Utopia Village in Primrose Hill, north London. Mr Pickles last week approved plans by the small business park’s owner to convert the Victorian buildings into homes, despite a fierce campaign by its occupiers.

Camden council had rejected the plans but Mr Pickles overruled it.

John Chambers, of music tour promoter and Utopia tenant Marshall Arts, welcomed the U-turn “though it is probably too late for us, which is sad”.

The way the policy relaxation had been drafted was “ham-fisted”, he said.

Peter Box, housing and planning spokesman for the Local Government Association, said he was “pleased” the government was ending the relaxation in the rules.

The change has “led to existing businesses being evicted and seen homes created which do not meet the identified needs of a community”, Mr Box said.

Despite its U-turn on the conversion of offices to homes, the government on Wednesday announced plans to allow casinos, distribution centres and storage facilities to be turned into homes more easily.

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