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News - 9 May 2013
Damaged by the rule change

City Plan holed above the water line

Seventeen local authorities will be exempt from controversial plans to allow offices to be converted into homes without the need for planning permission but Brighton & Hove isn’t one of them. It’s a blow to the City Plan albeit not fatal.

Planning Minister Nick Boles has announced that new rules to introduce permitted development rights for change of use from offices to residential use would come into force on 30 May but a handful of councils have gained exemption, practically all in London.

Boles said: "These changes will bring empty and underused buildings back into productive use, make it easier to bring forward suitable buildings for state-funded schools, allow business and families to extend and improve their premises and homes without the expense of moving and facilitate delivery of superfast broadband".

Invoking the higher authority of Mary Portas he also said that the in addition to conversion from office to residential use the new measures would include easier change of use on all commercial premises saying, "These measures also implement recommendations from [the] Mary Portas Review to reduce restrictive 'change of use' red tape."

To boost the government’s controversial Free Schools agenda, offices, hotels, residential and non-residential buildings and leisure & assembly buildings will be able to change their use permanently to a state-funded school. And for a one year temporary basis, buildings of any use class can be used as a state-funded school.


After Department for Communities & Local Government announced the office conversion plans in January [see earlier story] many authorities including Brighton & Hove protested that the move could deplete their office stock and undermine employment growth.

The carefully crafted City Plan has a responsibility to balance demand for space for up to 19,000 new homes over the next 20 years and the projected need for over 100,000 square metres of additional office space. Because of the constraints of our geography The Plan can’t fulfil either but the task is made more complicated by not knowing if existing employment space can be converted to homes at the unregulated impulse of a property owner.

The City Plan is definitely weakened by this development and the job of the planners and the Council just got harder.

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Read related items on:
Core Strategy
Local Development Framework
Brighton & Hove City Council
Boles, Nick

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