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Mayor urges Pickles to exempt SE1 from housing conversion free-for-all

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has urged communities secretary Eric Pickles to except Bankside, Elephant & Castle, London Bridge and Waterloo from proposals to allow offices to be turned into homes without planning permission.

Boris Johnson and Eric Pickles]
Boris Johnson and Eric Pickles

The Mayor has written to Mr Pickles asking him to exclude the area known as the central activities zone (CAZ) from the new permitted development rights which will allow developers to convert offices to homes without requiring permission from the local authority.

Most of SE1 falls within the CAZ, including the 'opportunity areas' designated by the mayor at Bankside, Elephant & Castle, London Bridge and Waterloo. Only the easternmost part of SE1 along Old Kent Road and towards Bermondsey Spa is outside the CAZ.

"London is a colossal powerhouse of jobs and growth, not only for the UK but of international significance," said Boris Johnson.

"Its success depends on a rich mix of uses and the high value of residential property in central London could upset this and change the area for good.

"So it is absolutely vital we can plan for these key areas so we continue to attract investment and businesses, maintaining London's status as a global commercial hub."

However, Mr Pickles indicated last month that exemptions would not be granted lightly: "We will only grant an exemption in exceptional circumstances, where local authorities demonstrate clearly that the introduction of these new permitted development rights in a particular local area will lead to (a) the loss of a nationally significant area of economic activity or (b) substantial adverse economic consequences at the local authority level which are not offset by the positive benefits the new rights would bring," he told Parliament.

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