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BetterHomesEnfield logo2Campaigners opposed to the indiscrimate conversion of offices into flats have welcomed support from both sides of the political divide on Enfield Council, among them council leader Nesil Caliscan. In a written response to a question from a Conservative councillor, the leader revealed that council officers are currently investigating whether there is a strong enough case to apply for an "Article 4 direction".  This would remove "permitted development rights" which allow developers to carry out such conversions without obtaining planning permission.

These developments have come about after a campaigning group called Better Homes Enfield launched a petition on the council website calling for an Article 4 direction "to stop 'human warehouses' being developed in Enfield". Matt Burn of Better Homes Enfield has provided the following comment:

"Both Conservative and Labour Councillors now publicly support an Article 4 direction. This is welcome news! This will help protect local office space, employment and business and ensure that flats developed from converted offices are built to a decent standard.

"The Council is waiting for planning officers to provide the evidence needed before deciding how to proceed – frustratingly they’ve had the evidence needed for an Article 4 since 2017 – but we’re hoping that things will now proceed more swiftly."

In her reply to the written question, Nesil Caliskan emphasized that obtaining permission from the government to issue an Article 4 development will require a "particularly strong justification and evidence base". She also pointed out that it would not apply retrospectively, which presumably means that the council will be unable to block conversion of Refuge House, Enfield Town, with the loss of between 80 and 100 jobs.

Question 16 from Councillor Rye to Councillor Caliskan, Leader of the Council

Given the Council is funding new office accommodation in Enfield Town for Metaswitch to retain jobs in Enfield, will Councillor Caliskan, Leader of the Council, instruct officers to implement an immediate article 4 direction to protect jobs elsewhere in Enfield Town such as Refuge House, where a potential conversion to residential is driving more than 100 jobs out of the Borough?

Reply from Councillor Caliskan

I support the implementation of an Article A4 Directive to withdraw permitted development rights that enable offices to be converted into residential use without the need to make a planning application. I have asked officers to commenced work to evidence the option of introducing an Article 4 Directive.

The Council applied to Government for an exemption to these changes to permitted development in 2013. This application was rejected by Government. This policy had not been actively pursued since then, until early this year when I asked officers to finalise the evidence necessary.

The Government introduced permitted development rights to drive the delivery of housing across the country and a particularly strong justification and evidence base is required. Officers are now undertaking work to assess whether an article 4 direction, to withdraw these permitted development rights, can be made across part or all of the borough.

This work will now run to the end of the year with a decision on how to proceed or not to be taken thereafter.

An Article 4 Notice, however, will not prevent the implementation of office to residential conversions that already benefit from prior approval confirming that permitted development rights apply.

Source: Councillor questions and responses, September 2019

Links

Petition calls on council to prevent conversion of offices into 'human warehouses' (PGC 19 August 2019)

Petition on Enfield Council website

Better Homes Enfield on Twitter

Better Homes Enfield on Facebook

We need better homes (Enfield Dispatch August 2019)

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