Government planning changes threaten Enfield’s town centres

Enfield Council is launching a consultation on Government planning changes. The Council has warned that it will be unable to prevent loss of office space and its conversion to poor quality homes as the Government goes ahead with changes to legislation.

The Authority has been working on an Article 4 Direction which would give the Council the power to prevent landowners exercising permitted development rights for the conversion of office space into residential properties - which currently does not require planning permission.

But the Government’s changes to planning legislation deal a hammer blow to the Article 4 Direction and severely limit the powers of local authorities to block inappropriate redevelopment of offices to residential properties.

Enfield Council's Leader, Cllr Nesil Caliskan, said: “Enfield Council has been working on implementing an Article 4 Direction to prevent landowners converting offices to residential property without the need for planning permission. Residents have supported this initiative, particularly in Southgate and Enfield Town, and have voiced their concerns about conversions reducing the amount of commercial space needed to keep our high streets vibrant – and the potential for the conversions to lead to poor quality housing.

"The Government has torpedoed these plans by changing legislation. We are calling on the Government to reverse this decision and we want residents to take part in our consultation so their voices can be heard and they can help us put pressure on the Government to rethink their approach.

"The Council is deeply concerned about the impact that the changes to the legislation will have on Enfield’s town centres and businesses which have already been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses could potentially be priced out of town centres to the detriment of local communities.

"Enfield is growing and the Council wants enough flexibility to rebuild town centres and local economies whilst still being able to control what happens to Enfield’s businesses and communities.

"The Council wants to support local people by ensuring all new developments meet the needs of the community, as well as developers."

Enfield Council is calling for an urgent review of the legislation and will be asking Government to take immediate action to:

  • bring an immediate end to office-to-residential permitted development
  • confirm that Article 4s (or equivalent) will remain part of the planning toolkit for Local Authorities to control permitted development
  • confirm there will be no future permitted development for the conversion of the new Class E (commercial, business and service uses) to residential use. Class E includes a range of commercial uses that were previously separate and which meant change between them could be more easily be controlled
  • urgently rethink the recently announced expansion of permitted development for demolition of vacant office space for redevelopment for residential use

Cllr Nesil Caliskan added: “We are asking residents to let us know their views on the Government’s changes to planning, including the office to residential use, widening of permitted development rights and their implications for Enfield. From September we will be inviting residents to join our conversation and support our call on Government to reverse these sudden changes that make Article 4 Directions hard to justify.”

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