We recently responded to a government planning consultation entitled ‘Supporting housing delivery and public service infrastructure’. This contained proposals  to extend Permitted Development Rights allowing conversions from a broad class of commercial properties to residential. We have strongly objected to this. 

In Harlow, there have been more than 1,100 residential units created from office conversions under the existing permitted development (PD) rights. These have mainly been of poor quality with limited space with many having poor and limited access to local facilities. This has been borne out by the Government’s own commissioned report, ‘Research into the quality standard of homes delivered through change of use permitted development rights’ (2020), which concluded that permitted development rights create ‘worse quality residential environments’. The risk is that this new PD right if introduced would go wider than the office to residential conversions, enabling a much greater range of uses to change with greater impacts and many piecemeal changes with poor quality homes in inappropriate locations as well as loss of retail and employment space.

You can read our full response on our website here.

We should be improving standards through the planning system, not encouraging lower standards through poor quality conversions through permitted development. As mentioned in our last newsletter, Harlow Civic Society supports the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) campaign for a Healthy Homes Act: https://www.tcpa.org.uk/healthy-homes-act. This is aiming to get legislation enacted to ensure that all homes and places fulfil minimum standards across a wide range of criteria. These include: access to natural light; radical reductions in carbon emissions; freedom from unacceptable noise and light pollution; safety from risk of fire; inclusive, accessible and adaptable surroundings; resilience to climate change; minimal contribution to air pollution; better space standards; access to sustainable transport and walkable services.

The TCPA campaign has current initiatives that are worthy of our support. 

They are calling for people to sign the 38 Degrees’ petition calling on the Liverpool City Region to adopt the Healthy Homes Principles. 

TCPA are pressing for a Healthy Homes Act in Westminster, and hope to ramp up the pressure on the Government to support the Healthy Homes Bill by encouraging more local authorities to adopt the principles.                  

Twenty three Members of Parliament have so far added their names to Early Day Motion (EDM) 1417, which supports the Healthy Homes Act campaign.  We have written to Robert Halfon asking him to sign the EDM .  

We ask you to consider doing two things:

Firstly, sign the petition on Liverpool adopting the Healthy Homes principles. This will help build support in Local Authorities. You can find the petition here:  https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-want-minimum-standards-for-liverpool-s-homes

Secondly, contact Robert Halfon and ask him to sign the EDM 1417. TCPA have drafted a template email/letter you can use to send to him, which you can find here: https://www.tcpa.org.uk/write-to-your-mp-about-our-healthy-homes-act-edm  

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