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High Court date set for office-to-home conversion rights challenge

A judicial review of the Government's procedure in deciding which areas to exempt from recently introduced rights allowing offices to be transformed into homes without planning permission will be heard in the High Court on 4 December.11 Nov 2013

The London Boroughs of Islington, Camden, Richmond upon Thames and Lambeth have been granted permission to challenge the new permitted development rights which came into force on 30 May.

Islington Council will be leading one legal challenge with support from Camden and Richmond. Lambeth has brought a separate action which will be heard at the same time. The London Boroughs of Sutton, Tower Hamlets and Ealing are also contributing towards the costs of the challenge.

Areas within 17 local authorities were granted exemption from the rights following an application procedure, including the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) and Tech City in London, as well as areas in the Isle of Dogs and the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone. The judicial review will look into the Government's reasons for deciding to grant exemption to some areas, but not to others.

Islington Council said in a statement that, since the new rights were introduced, it has had 27 'prior approval' applications, which it said had resulted in the loss of almost 17,000 square metres of office space. Richmond Council said it had received 107 applications for conversions from developers in the same period.

"The Government’s changes to the planning laws are already having a detrimental effect on London boroughs," said Islington Council's executive member James Murray. "In Islington we have firm plans for building good quality, affordable housing. But the government's changes are undermining what we're trying to do by allowing developers to bypass these plans in a reckless free-for-all."

"The change to the law means that any office space can be converted into poor quality private homes with no affordable housing. There’s a real danger that small offices across the borough will be lost to private housing, and tower blocks will have as many flats as possible crammed into them. We are determined to fight this and I am glad that we have the support of many other boroughs in bringing this important legal challenge," Murray said.