One of the dying acts of the Coalition government was the introduction in England in April 2015 of relaxed planning legislation called “permitted development” which allows, for example, office blocks to be converted to housing without complying with minimum space standards.
This was done by means of a change to a “statutory instrument”, a measure which requires no parliamentary vote. Crucially it also means that no local authority planning permission is required and so dispenses with local control of these decisions.
It has led to the situation in the Conservative-controlled London Borough of Barnet where a developer is proposing to convert an 11-storey office block currently partly occupied by council staff into 254 flats.
To reach the number of 254 the developer is proposing that nearly all the flats will be below the national minimum standard of 37 square metres with some as small as 16 square metres.
It is probable that many if not most of these flats will be bought as investments and left unoccupied – hence the push to maximise the number of flats.
The government is currently planning for a Great Repeal Bill to deal with former EU legislation but we urgently need a great repeal bill to deal with the various statutory instruments which are having such an adverse effect on housing and employment.