We need better homes

Refuge House in Enfield
Refuge House in Enfield Town is a former office block that is being converted into 52 studio flats under ‘permitted development’ rules (credit Google)

Al Sims is backing a petition against ‘permitted development’ schemes in Enfield

Since 2013 property developers have been able to use something called ‘permitted development rights’ to convert offices into flats – without obtaining planning permission.

The idea was well-intentioned, because it meant vacant offices could be turned into much-needed homes. Unfortunately, however, it’s had some pretty awful unintended consequences.

Firstly, it has led to some appalling housing. Many of the flats created are tiny (some studio flats are about the size as a parking space) and the buildings are overcrowded. The flats can be poorly ventilated, do not need external windows or any outside space, and do not even need to meet environmental standards. Developers get away with all this because they don’t need to obtain planning permission.

Secondly, permitted development rules have creates a loophole which means developers can avoid making contributions towards affordable homes and community payments. It’s hard to be know exactly, but we estimate that Enfield borough has lost 200 affordable homes and at least £1.2million in community investment – money and homes we desperately need. The shortfall will be paid by us, Enfield’s residents, but we think these developers should pay their fair share.

Finally, many of the offices converted are occupied, so businesses are forced out to make way for them. Many of our borough’s offices are being converted, meaning business have to relocate further afield and reducing local employment.

Thankfully, there’s an easy solution to all this. Most London councils have used a directive called ‘Article 4’ to protect their boroughs from permitted development. Homes can still be built, but developers cannot avoid paying their fair share and the homes must be of much better quality. Enfield Council, unfortunately, hasn’t yet done this and has refused to act quickly. We think this is unacceptable. The longer this continues, the more poor-quality homes will be created, with Enfield residents picking up the bill.

By signing our petition, you’ll be helping to reduce misery, increase affordable housing, save jobs, improve the borough’s finances and help the environment. It’s not often that a single petition can have so many positive outcomes for our borough!

Sign the Better Homes For Enfield petition:
Visit bit.ly/BetterEnfield