I'm concerned about the impact Eric Pickles' Permitted Development Rights (PDR) policy is having on business in London.
The policy allows conversions of office and retail properties to residential without planning permission. Applying for planning permission gives the opportunity for objections to be made, this right has been removed.
There is considerable financial incentive for property owners to make this conversion and as a result there has been a noticeable increase of office to residential conversions in town centres and on high streets. Businesses are booted out, buildings are left empty, residents will move in (eventually, we are told).
The exception? Your building is exempt if it is located in the Central Activity Zone (CAZ). Camden Town isn't.
We create and manage work space for creative start-up businesses in Camden. We seated 100 young entrepreneurs at Carlow House, 5 minutes walk from Mornington Crescent Station. Now it's being turned into apartments. 500 people have been ejected from the building; far fewer will move in. A recent questionnaire revealed that our tenants spend an average of £70 per week in Camden. The PDR policy will impact on local business.
As a Business Improvement District (BID) we represent more than 300 creative, retail and leisure industry companies. We are focussed on the economic development of Camden Town and to this end we are in the process of delivering a large scale streetscape, retail use improvement, incubator hubs and job brokerage service in partnership with Camden Council and the Mayor of London.
In booting out business, Pickles reduces business rates. Ed Watson, Assistant Dtr. Regeneration and Planning, Camden Council, predicts a loss in business rates by £2.2M. We predict a gradual loss of our levy income too. We won't be the only BID outside the CAZ to suffer this loss, which seems contradictory to the GLA and the government's commitment to increase the number of BIDs and support their growth.
We've written to Pickle with a couple of suggestions, we urge you to do the same.
1. Remove the right to change of use for any development that would remove business rate paying businesses that can be shown to have paid NNDRs in the past three years.
2. Redefine the CAZ to include highly productive areas such as Camden Town.
We await Pickles' response, and look forward to finding a solution as a matter of urgency.