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Office to homes plan faces second judicial review

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A second council has launched a judicial review of the government’s policy to allow owners of office buildings to convert them into homes without planning permission.

Lambeth LBC has followed Islington LBC and lodged a legal challenge against the government’s bid to solve the housing problem citing concerns that the permanent loss of business properties could damage local economies.

Pete Robbins (Lab), cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said: “Landlords in Brixton and Streatham have been handed a free reign to turn offices into flats – it’s simply unacceptable.

“The new regulations could harm trade in these key areas and raise the prospect of job losses, lost business rates and reduced funding for infrastructure.”

Like Islington’s legal challenge, Lambeth is seeking a review of how the government decided which areas would be exempt from the planning rules relaxation.

The government received 1,387 exemption requests from 165 councils but just 17 exemption areas where granted.

Lambeth applied for exemptions for several areas, including Brixton town centre, Streatham town centre and a number of industrial estates. However, only an exemption around Waterloo and Vauxhall was granted.

Cllr Robbins said the government’s decision-making process lacked transparency.

“Based on the information provided, it is impossible to understand how the government could have exempted residential areas in places such as Kensington and Chelsea, while ignoring the value to our local economy of Brixton and Streatham,” he said.

Islington and Lambeth’s judicial review have been lodged separately.

A spokesman for DCLG said: “The department introduced the office to residential change of use policy in order to bring underused offices back into effective use and provide new homes, and we will vigorously defend any legal challenge to the policy.”

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