Thousands of Croydon families are finding themselves in “cramped, substandard, and unaffordable homes” due to “flawed” government planning regulations, research published today claims.
The report by London Assembly Member Tom Copley highlights Croydon has having more permitted development flats than any other area of the capital, as well as some of the smallest flats – or “fuck hutches” as they have been disparagingly described by a top architect. The smallest flat found in the survey was in Croydon and offers living space of just 10sq m.
Across London, almost 16,000 homes have been built since 2013 under relaxed permitted development rules, allowing the conversion of offices and other business buildings into flats. Yet less than 1per cent of these PD flats are “affordable”, according to analysis from Copley, Labour’s housing spokesperson at the London Assembly.
Despite the council blocking permitted development conversions in the town centre since 2014, there are at least 2,700 PD flats in the borough, where some of the “micro-flats” are marketed to Chinese investors, with one-bed apartments fetching £280,000.
For the title of his report, Copley has used a phrase first aired by Croydon Labour councillor, Sean Fitzsimons. The report is called Slums of the Future – Permitted Development Conversions in London.
Copley’s research found that more than half of the capital’s PD homes flout minimum space standards. Copley has urged the government to scrap permitted development, and said current proposals to extend it would result in “condemning tens of thousands more Londoners to living in miserable conditions” and place the high street in “serious jeopardy”.
Permitted development rules allow developers to convert certain office and industrial buildings to residential use without going through the full planning process, in an aim to speed up the delivery of new homes. London requires 65,000 new homes a year, according to the New London Plan, with 65 per cent of these needing to be affordable.
Yet analysis of London Development Database figures reveals that of 15,929 homes built through these types of conversions since 2013, only 71 flats were “affordable” – accounting for just 0.4 per cent. With the Mayor of London’s current minimum target set at 35 per cent on privately owned land, this means the capital has missed out on 5,504 affordable homes.
Copley has also discovered that 1,837 London PD flats are smaller than the legal minimum standards, and that 240 were less than half this lowest threshold.
In a statement issued from Copley’s City Hall office they said, “Some of the worst examples are seen in Croydon where 80 per cent of properties identified failed to meet minimum space standards, including one development where the smallest flat was just 10 square metres.”
That flat is in Urban House on Cavendish Road in West Croydon.
Such profit-hungry development has another impact on London’s, and Croydon’s, economy. As of February 2018, permitted development has resulted in the loss of 1.6million sq m of office space across London – the equivalent of 224 Wembley football pitches.
Last autumn, the Conservative government consulted on proposals to extend permitted development to allow a wider range of high street uses to be converted to homes without planning permission. The government also proposes to give permitted development rights to the full demolition of commercial buildings to be rebuilt as residential properties.
Copley’s report calls on the Mayor of London to add to the pressure on the government to scrap permitted development. If the government refuses, Copley says they must then commit to ensuring permitted development properties meet space standards and contribute to London’s affordable housing need. He also calls for better support for local authorities in using what are known as “Article 4 directions”, as has been used in Croydon to restrict the use of permitted development.
“This cannot carry on. We need to solve the national housing crisis, but subjecting London families to cramped, substandard and unaffordable homes is not the way to do it,” Copley said.
“Permitted development is an unnecessary and deeply flawed policy. If this continues unchecked, we will be condemning tens of thousands more Londoners to living in miserable conditions.
“Some may call them ‘rabbit hutches’ or others ‘micro-homes’, but we must be clear about what we are building when we allow masses of permitted development conversions: the slums of the future.
“We’re already seeing vast swathes of office space wiped out at an unnerving rate. If the Government moves ahead with plans to extend these rules further, they will be willfully putting our high streets and local businesses in serious jeopardy.
“It’s baffling that they are so blind to the dangers posed by their desire to let developers ride roughshod over planning standards. They should be condemning this policy to the scrap heap.”
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