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Council proposes tighter restrictions on turning offices into homes

The streamlined process of converting offices into homes could be restricted if new council proposals come into force.

The Royal Borough wants to tighten up planning rules about the conversions following fears too much work space is being lost.

It wants to take away a ‘permitted development right’, which makes the planning process for turning offices into homes easier.

It allows some works and changes of use to be made without needing to make a planning application.

“In view of the challenges that RBWM faces in terms of a constrained supply of development land, the continuing loss of employment floor space will put the ability to plan for economic growth in jeopardy,” a council report states.

The document, which will be considered by the Planning and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Panel next week, recommends councillors approve a consultation to remove the development right.

It shows that 18,067sqm of office floor space has been turned into residential use since the right came into force in 2013.

Another 9,136sqm is expected to be lost due to conversions which have been approved but not yet finished.

The Advertiser reported earlier this month how some businesses that need to leave King Street ahead of the Landing regeneration development have struggled to find suitable premises.

In November, Jan Stannard, founder of small business Siteset Digital, said she had to move the 20-employee company to Bourne End after she was unable to find the right space in Maidenhead.

Cllr David Coppinger, the cabinet member for planning, said the change to the permitted development right would mean applicants would need to seek planning permission to convert offices to homes.

He said initially the right was ‘a good thing to do’ but added: “It is now really working against us in Maidenhead, because this is not really affecting the big companies, this is affecting the accountants, the lawyers, the estate agents, the smaller businesses and they just can’t get sufficient premises for themselves.”

A consultation is set to run, and then changes would not be implemented for a year.

The panel will meet at 5.30pm on Tuesday, January 29 at 5.30pm at Maidenhead Town Hall.

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