Permitted development rights and the growth of ‘human warehousing’
The conversion of Terminus House, a 1960s office block in Harlow, into 214 flats made national news due to allegations of vulnerable people being placed in unsuitable accommodation and local services coming under pressure.
It was claimed that problems had included a high number of calls to police, drug use and dealing and incidents of domestic abuse.
Harlow Council has highlighted the issue of ‘human warehousing’, saying it can do little to stop such conversions due to the growing use of permitted development rights (PDRs).
Council leader leader Mark Ingall and managing director Brian Keane, together with the town’s MP, Robert Halfon, went so far as to meet then-Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, asking him to withdraw PDRs that allow the conversion of office buildings to housing without the need for a planning application.
Mr Brokenshire had previously announced a review into the design standards of the housing resulting from such office conversions.
In Harlow alone, more than 1,000 homes have been created by schemes enabled by the use of PDRs.
“Many of the blocks are on industrial estates, which are unsuitable for families and have no social infrastructure or bus services,” said Andrew Bramidge, the council’s interim head of planning.
He also said that Caridon Developments, the developer behind Terminus House and at least one other PDR conversion in the town, had promoted its schemes to London local authorities as temporary housing for homeless people.
Mr Bramidge has revealed how developers have applied to his council for prior approval to confirm that their schemes did not need planning consent, leaving the local authority little room to refuse applications.
“If they had been subject to the planning process, we could have at least secured contributions towards bus services and schools and all the other necessary pieces of infrastructure,” he said.
In a bid to tackle the problem, Harlow Council has introduced an Article 4 Direction, which limits the works that can be performed without planning permission, in the town’s enterprise zone and plans to use it further afield.
Monday, August 5, 2019