Permitted development not the solution for Enfield’s housing crisis

Building more social homes, rather allowing more sub-standard office-to-residential conversions, should be the solution to addressing Enfield’s housing shortages, according to local London Assembly Member, Joanne McCartney AM. Ms McCartney’s latest calls to prevent rabbit-hutch sized homes springing up across the capital, come in the wake of a Government-commissioned report into the impact of permitted development rights. The report, which features Enfield as a case study, underlines concerns surrounding the quality and space standards of homes built through the permitted development process.

The Government has recently announced its plans to expand permitted development rights from 31st August. This will allow developers to convert certain office, retail and industrial buildings to residential use without going through the full planning process, in an aim to speed up the delivery of new homes.

Ms McCartney is rallying against the expansion of these rights which despite recently updated legalisation, will still allow developers to shirk certain housing regulations and their usual obligation to invest in local communities.

The recently published report into permitted development rights undertaken by academic researchers, has revealed that the smallest permitted development home in the borough, measures just 27 metres squared. This flouts the Government’s own minimum space standard for a one-bedroom home, set at 37 metres squared.

In addition, the report’s research shows that homes built in the borough through permitted development, rather than through the usual planning process, are likely to be located further away from accessible green space.

The case study into Enfield also highlights the Council’s concerns about developers using permitted development rights as a “negotiating tool” to avoid their duty of having to make affordable housing contributions.

Enfield Council has now joined 21 other local authorities in the capital in writing to the Minister for Housing Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, to outline their misgivings towards the Government’s plans to expand permitted development rights.

This comes as the Council is considering the need to exercise ‘Article 4’ powers to restrict permitted development in certain areas of the borough.

The latest figures from the Greater London Authority (GLA) show that City Hall put the wheels in motion for the construction of 419 genuinely affordable homes in Enfield between April 2019 and March 2020.

However, the Mayor and the capital’s housing sector have recently called upon the Government to provide £5 billion of emergency funding to kickstart affordable housing programmes in London in the midst of the first Covid-19 outbreak.

A study conducted by the GLA in July 2019 also showed that the Government currently underfunds affordable housing projects in the capital by a factor of seven.

Local London Assembly Member, Joanne McCartney AM, said: 

“The Prime Minister’s pledge to get building should not come at the cost of basic standards, our local high-streets and office space.

“We need an ambitious programme to build the social homes that Londoners need- similar to what previous generations saw after the Second World War.

“From City Hall, the Mayor has kickstarted this process, working alongside the Council. The Government hasn’t followed London’s lead, instead it continues to severely underfund affordable housing in our capital.

“The Government must now heed the warnings of its own report, and swap its damaging plans for more rabbit-hutch sized homes for bold investment in good quality social homes”.