Should there be a crackdown on office-to-residential conversions?

Westminster Council’s deputy leader Robert Davis last week reaffirmed the authority’s stance to crackdown on office-to-residential conversions, reports Richard Carr.

Westminster losing its character

Whilst addressing the industry Belgrave and Turley roundtable, Davis expressed his view that the dynamic within Westminster had swung too far towards residential development.

Richard Carr Westminster

Is Westminster becoming too residential centric?

Propertyweek.com reported that Davis said: “Westminster is home to the most significant office and commercial centre in the country.

“It is not acceptable for us to lose this nationally and internationally important cluster at the rate we have been experiencing to residential spaces, which fundamentally changes the character of the area.”

Jobs at risk if trend continues

Cllr Davis warned that many jobs are at risk if the current trend continues. He explained that 1.8m sq ft of office floorspace had been lost in the past four years, with 75% of this decrease due to a switch of residential use.

He added that upto 11,000 jobs would be lost due to loss of offices from schemes that are currently under construction.

“The city functions as a balance between three key areas – attracting visitors to its vibrant cultural scene, being a place that people want to live in, and providing a dynamic environment for business to prosper,” argued Davis.

“When one side of that triangle begins to tip or outweigh the others, it begins to have serious consequences for Westminster’s unique character.”

Westminster proposed in December to switch its presumption in favour of residential development to commercial.

It also proposes changing the threshold where developers are required to provide additional residential space from one based on floorspace to one based on percentage uplift to encourage commercial development.

If office space is needed, it should be built

Richard Carr, a Commercial and Residential Development Consultant, disagreed with Cllr Davis’ stance and he believes that such maters should be left to the market.

Westminster Council have always been a law to themselves, in all facets of business, if there is demand for office space it will get built, half of the upper parts of Westminster are empty in any case.