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The Mayor of London is bidding to preserve city’s key business districts by urging the government to reconsider proposals that could see valuable office space in the capital turned into homes. Last year the Mayor negotiated for four defined areas in central London to be exempt from a Government policy that allowed office space to be converted into homes without developers applying for change of use planning permission. These areas included the Central Activities Zone which incorporates the City of London, the South Bank and the West End. More than a third of London’s jobs are within this area, and a further 280,000 jobs are expected to be created here in the next 25 years. The Mayor also successfully gained exemptions for the commercial area north of the Isle of Dogs and London’s Enterprise Zones in the Royal Docks, plus the part of the City Fringe in east London which makes up the emerging Tech City opportunity area. The UK government has just finished consulting on a raft of planning proposals including one that would see the exemption for these areas removed, a move that the Mayor, Boris Johnson, says would damage London’s internationally important business locations. Johnson points out that London is the beating heart of the UK economy and accounts for over a fifth of GDP. It is also a global centre for business, so the Mayor believes it is vital to maintain a stock of quality office space in key areas to ensure the city can continue to attract jobs and growth. The city is home to a number of unique clusters of economic activity from government offices, to financial services, institutions and professional bodies, which employ millions of people, contributing billions to the national economy. The Mayor believes that if these clusters were to be broken up in piecemeal residential conversions these benefits would disappear. ‘London is a colossal powerhouse of jobs and growth, and the motor of the UK economy. While increasing housing output is of vital importance, I am concerned that removing the exemption in our most thriving business districts could compromise both London and the UK’s future economic growth,’ said Johnson. ‘London’s success depends on a rich mix of uses and more high value residential property in central London could upset this balance and change the area for good,’ he added. In a letter to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, the Mayor, together with London First, the British Property Federation and the Planning Officers Society London say that ‘incremental unplanned loss of office accommodation in strategically important office areas of London can significantly weaken the agglomeration benefits provided by these locations’. The Mayor and signatories to the letter also argue that criteria should be in place to protect other, strategically important business locations across the country. They argue that due to the large variation in size and function of office clusters throughout the country, especially between London and other cities in England, it would be challenging to agree… Continue reading →
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