Whilst looking at plans for 25 flats at Brampton Road in Bexleyheath I spotted plans to convert two nearby office buildings in Bexleyheath. One is to convert 47 flats at the Jobcentre with another conversion planned just along the road for 18 flats at Broadway House. Both have just been approved.
Developers London Green purchased the site in March 2017. Here’s the planning description for the Jobcentre:
“Proposed change of use of a building from Office Use (Class B1(a)) to Residential use (Class C3) to provide 47 self contained units of accommodation comprising 1 on the ground floor, 20 on each of the first and second floors and 6 on the third floor. | Westminster House 186 – 194 Broadway Bexleyheath Kent DA6 7BB”
The planning reference is: 17/00988/PRIOR
The odd thing is the Department for Work and Pensions don’t mention it for disposal in a list released in January 2017 yet London Green say they purchased the site in March. Was it on an earlier list? Then again the DWP also have Woolwich down as being retained yet plans were submitted for a conversion to housing before Greenwich Council themselves announced they would purchase the site, with the council believed to want it for their own office space.
The other site, Broadway House, as seen above, has this description:
“Prior notification for the proposed change of use from Office Use (Class B1(a) on the first and second floors to provide 18 residential units (Class C3) comprising 2 x 2 bed and 16 x 1 bed self contained flats including provision of car parking and secure cycle parking. | Broadway House Trinity Place Bexleyheath Kent DA6 7AYnd”
The planning reference here is 17/00967/PRIOR
Changing the use of offices to housing through permitted development rights became much easier in 2013, with 10% of “new” housing now through such conversions. These schemes do not need planning permission – with developers only needing to pay the base planning permission fee to councils (often around £80) to give notification. They do not need to include any affordable housing.
The only way local councils can stop changes is to enact “Article 4” directions – which is not easy to enact for this purpose, especially in suburban locations.
External changes do still need planning permission. It’s unclear whether the Jobcentre conversion will now proceed without the external changes seen at the top of this page.
Permitted development rights introduced in 2013 were initially temporary but were made permanent by central government in 2016. Next up is automatic permitted rights to convert industrial units to housing, which begins in October 2017.
The change has divided opinion. It’s a quick way to ensure more desperately needed housing is provided as new home building reached the lowest it’s been for the past 100+ years (excluding WW1 and WW2) over the past two decades, reaching a pitiful nadir in recent years of a third of the levels Britain was building just a few short years after World War 2 with post-war austerity and rationing still in full swing. Yet is converting offices, and imminently industrial units, a clear sign of failure to provide high quality purpose built homes?