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Exemption law sought by Enfield Council

Published Tuesday, 02 April 2013

Enfield Council has applied to the government for an exemption from new planning laws which mean developers can convert office buildings into homes without planning permission.

Council chiefs are concerned that a spate of office conversions in the Upper Lee Valley Opportunity Area and strategic industrial locations to the east of the borough would have a significant detrimental effect on the borough's economy.

The government's current development rights mean premises can already change from general industrial or storage use to offices without planning permission, Enfield Council fears that the government's plans to allow unrestricted conversion of offices to residential use from spring this year would effectively open the floodgates and result in hundreds of industrial, storage and office units being converted into homes, potentially decimating the borough's industrial and commercial heartlands.

Enfield Council's Cabinet Member for Business and Regeneration, Cllr Del Goddard, said: "The government has invited Councils to seek an exemption for the changes which they plan to introduce in the spring, and we have seized the opportunity because we believe they would be detrimental to parts of the borough.

"We already have sustainable long term plans to create thousands of high quality new homes in Enfield as part of significant regeneration projects such as the massive £1.3 billion Meridian Water scheme, and the regeneration of Ponders End as well as our estates renewal programmes so we don't think converting office blocks into private accommodation is necessarily the answer to our housing needs.

"We'd prefer to be able to consider these applications through our planning committee in the usual way so that we know proposed developments are sensible, proportionate and in the best interests of the borough and the location they are situated, rather than allowing developers open season to convert industrial and commercial units into homes regardless of their suitability.

"We are also keen to maintain and protect our industrial and commercial sectors during this difficult economic period so that we have the business infrastructure in place to provide jobs and wealth for Enfield when the economy starts to recover, we won't be in a position to take advantage of an upturn in the economy if all our industrial buildings and office blocks have been converted into houses.

"Our application for an exemption from the changes to planning laws has support from the North London Chamber of Commerce, the Greater London Authority and the North London Strategic Alliance so we believe there is a general agreement that this exemption would be in the best interests of Enfield and its residents."

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