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Council panel backs removing planning right to convert offices into homes

Changes to the ease of converting offices to homes were backed by a council panel on Tuesday evening.

The Royal Borough wants to remove the ‘permitted development right’ which allows the conversions to go ahead without submitting a planning application.

Since 2013, when the Government brought introduced the right, the borough has lost 18,067sqm of office floor space to residential use, and another 9,136sqm is due to go under currently approved plans.

If the development right is taken away, plans to convert offices to homes will need to be submitted as a normal application for the council to decide on.

 

The council’s head of planning, Jenifer Jackson, told the Planning and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Panel at Maidenhead Town Hall that the right ‘has had a significant effect’ on the borough’s capacity to provide space ‘for future economic growth’.

Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley and Walthams) described the idea to revoke the right as ‘brilliant’ and said: “It is definitely what we need.”

She added: “A lot of these businesses, they don’t know where else to go.

“A lot of them are moving out and that is a problem.

“These offices sustain other businesses in the area.

“I am just hopeful that we haven’t bolted the door after the horse has left.”

A consultation will be held and any changes would be made after 12 months, subject to ministerial approval.

The plans which will need to be approved by the Royal Borough’s cabinet at its Maidenhead Town Hall meeting at 7.30pm tomorrow (Thursday).

Acting managing director Russell O’Keefe also told the panel that changes to how the council help homeless people has led to reduced costs.

Fewer people are in high-cost temporary accommodation and the council only houses people in bed and breakfasts as an emergency resort, he added.

The panel also supported adding an extra two weeks to the Royal Borough’s consultation over its Traveller local plan, which will outlines sites Travellers can use.

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