Anger at plans to turn offices into new flats

Gosport MP welcomes plans on homelessness but admits ‘it’s a significant problem’

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A CITY councillor has criticised government plans to allow office buildings to be turned into flats without planning consent.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced the new measures will ensure empty and under-used offices can be quickly converted into housing to make the most out of previously developed land.

But Cllr Luke Stubbs, member of the economic development, culture and leisure scrutiny panel at Portsmouth City Council, says the plans could stifle employment opportunities at planned developments.

He believes the extension of ‘permitted development rights’ could lead to a drop in available employment space in the city

And Cllr Stubbs added that the plans could ‘jeopardise plans to provide opportunities in new developments’.

Cllr Stubbs said: ‘There are so few good development sites in the city that we need them all to include some employment uses, but these changes make that harder.

‘How do you argue with a developer that his scheme can’t be all housing when any office space he built could be turned into housing at the drop of a hat?

‘Portsmouth, like most councils, has always let genuinely obsolete stock be converted to housing anyway, so the government is trying to solve a problem that does not exist.’

Cllr Stubbs added that planned schemes at Tipner and St Mary’s Hospital in Milton are ‘both required to include commercial space.

He added: ‘But if those buildings could then be converted at any point to housing, requiring the commercial space in the first place becomes very difficult to justify.’

The government believes the scheme provides ‘badly-needed homes for local people’ and will contribute to easing the national housing shortage.

Mr Pickles said: ‘We want to promote the use of brownfield land to assist regeneration, and get empty and under-used buildings back into productive use. We are absolutely determined to support people striving to bring life back to their communities.’