Homes plan back-firing, say councils

From BBC - January 17, 2018

The scheme to tackle the housing crisis by converting offices to homes is back-firing and should be scrapped, local councils say.

A change in the law in 2013 allows developers to convert offices to flats without going through the planning process.

But the councils said it also allowed developers to duck their responsibility to provide affordable housing.

The government says the system is creating badly-needed homes.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), in many places more than half of all new homes have been developed under the scheme - including nearly three quarters in Stevenage.

However, it says the system - known as permitted development - undermines the vibrancy of cities where homes, shops and offices are jumbled together.

It also makes it hard for people to keep fit by walking or cycling to work.

Under the normal planning process councils can insist on developers contributing towards providing social housing, schools and roads.

But the LGA is angry that by avoiding the normal planning process developers can escape without making a contribution.

The LGA's Martin Tett said: "The conversion of offices into flats is one way to deliver much-needed homes, but we ca not have developers ducking their responsibility to provide affordable housing and infrastructure.

"It is absolutely appalling what's happening. In 10 years time people will look back and wonder how on earth we could have created desolate dormitory suburbs with no employment.

"It is essential that councils have an oversight of local developments to ensure they are good quality and help build prosperous places."

'Free hand'


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