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We don't want planning rules watered down, say Worcester council chiefs
WORCESTER is set to reject new planning rules allowing owners of empty offices to turn them into flats - amid concerns it would damage the city’s economy.
The city council wants to “opt out” of April’s planning shake-up, with bosses saying it would have “negative economic impacts” on Worcester.
Paul O’Connor, the authority’s development services manager, says it could damage “local employment opportunities” if offices are freely turned into homes.
The Government wants to relax the rules in order to tackle the national housing crisis and estimates the policy could create an extra 130,000 properties across the country.
Any councils against the idea have until Friday to “opt out” of it, and will have their pleas considered by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
DCLG does have the right to reject the bid, but city council chiefs are currently preparing evidence to suggest why it would damage Worcester.
Mr O’Connor’s report says the move would mean the city loses “a planned approach” to where homes are located, and would create less jobs.
The report also states the city would lose out on Section 106 money - cash handouts from developers in return for agreeing planning permission which typically goes on parks, roads infrastructure or to nearby schools.
He said: “There are parts of the city where permitted development of this type could have negative impacts, particularly in relation to employment opportunities, and reduced capacity to properly deliver a planned approach.”
Councillor Marc Bayliss, deputy leader and cabinet member for economic prosperity, said: “There are lots of premises we could potentially lose and to have them turned into residential properties would not be good for Worcester’s economy.”
As your Worcester News reported last month sandwich shop owners are also against it, as a lot of trade comes from office workers.
At the moment owners of offices must apply for a ‘change of use’ to the council, which has the right to refuse it.
Worcester has around 90 unused offices at the moment, a figure which is constantly moving about.
The city council’s planning committee will debate it on Thursday