In May 2013, national permitted development rights were amended to allow the change of use of offices (Class B1(a) use) to residential (Class C3 use) to be assessed through a ‘prior approval’ process rather than through the normal planning permission process. This means that a Council is only be able to consider a narrow range of specified issues when deciding whether to allow such a change of use. These issues do not include the contribution that the office plays to the local or to the wider economy, or to the character of the area.
Why are we consulting?
The Council is not satisfied that such a system will allow it to carry out the proper planning of the area, within the central area of Bath. It is concerned that there has been, and will continue to be a significant loss of office premises in this area, notwithstanding the fact that there is no weakness in the office market itself, if the rules on conversion to residential remain relaxed. Losses of offices undermine the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan objectives to grow the number of jobs and office floorspace within this part of Bath.
The Council has made an Article 4 direction to remove these new permitted development rights in respect of office conversions to ensure that any such development will need to be considered through the normal planning application process and against the development policies in the Council’s local plan documents.
The existing Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan contain policies for the protection and development of office uses which apply to any development when planning permission is required. This also means that, where the loss of office space to homes is acceptable, the Council can seek affordable housing and other supporting infrastructure, as they would in respect of any other proposed development, whilst ensuring that a good standard of residential accommodation is secured.
The Council would like to hear your views on whether the Article 4 Direction will be appropriate and whether the geographical area affected is correct. The Council is consulting on this Article 4 Direction for six weeks, starting from 5th March 2018 to 16th April 2018.
What happens next:
The Council will consider any representations received before deciding if the Article 4 Direction should be confirmed. Accordingly, subject to consideration of representations, the Direction, if confirmed, will come into force on 9th March 2019.