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Government backs Article 4 direction by council on office-to-resi conversions

The Government has agreed to a council’s Article 4 direction on changes of use from office to residential, subject to modifications.

On 12 June, the policy and resources committee at Brighton & Hove City Council confirmed a direction affecting the change of use of office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential use (Use Class C3) in three parts of the city.

The areas are:

  • Central Brighton, New England Quarter and London Road Area;
  • Edward Street Quarter, Edward Street, Brighton;
  • City Park, The Droveway, Hove.

The effect of the Article 4 direction is that – from 25 July – planning permission is required for change of use from office to residential in the areas covered.

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The Local Plan and City Plan policies on the managed release of offices to other uses will be used to assess any applications.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, approved the direction, save for the exclusion of any office premises which have secured prior approval before 25 July from the Article 4 direction.

The purpose and the area of the Article 4 direction are unchanged.

The Government relaxed the rules on the need to obtain planning permission for change of use from office space to residential in May 2013.

But the move has proved controversial. A number of local authorities brought judicial review proceedings after they were refused exemptions, but this challenge was rejected by the High Court in December 2013.

Earlier this month Islington Council – which was one of the authorities involved in the unsuccessful judicial review – reacted angrily to ministers’ decision to revoke the authority’s Article 4 direction, even after the council made modifications.

Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty, chair of Brighton & Hove’s planning committee, said: “We notified the Secretary of State about the Article 4 direction and are pleased that he has accepted this measure without changing any of the proposed areas. It shows that we have made the right decision in making sure our key employment sites are protected.

“If we lost even 10% of our city centre offices the impact would be enormous – 700 office jobs would go. We have the 4th largest growth in the country for private sector jobs and our decision will help protect job creation into the future.”

He added: “We recognise the pressing need for new homes but have to find a balance between homes and jobs. Every planning application is considered on its merits, and there will be applications suitable for some housing. The planning process also enables local communities to have a say on proposals as well as giving planning officers the opportunity to negotiate community benefits and affordable housing if change of use is recommended.”

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