Redbridge businesses ‘will not be able to grow’ under new planning laws - chamber of commerce

There are fears Redbridge businesses “will not be able to grow” if office space is eaten up by housing developments when planning laws are relaxed later this month.

Redbridge Council will not be exempt from new rules that will allow offices to be developed into housing without planning permission from May 30.

Zones in 17 English local authorities, including 10 London boroughs, have been exempted from the change.

Cllr Thomas Chan, cabinet member for regeneration, business and community, did not believe there would be a great impact because there is little unused office space in the borough.

He added: “We need housing, but I think we need long-term homes for families, not flats. The danger is that we will get a mish-mash of developments.”

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Geoff Hill, chairman of the Redbridge Chamber of Commerce, said successful firms need space to grow.

He added: “For a number of years office space has been converted into housing throughout Ilford and one of the complaints of local businesses is that they have nowhere to expand into.

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“I think if you’re going to have the ability to change use without regulation or consideration it could be very bad for business.

“We must also ensure we don’t have short-term jobs through construction here and there – we need long-term jobs and a lot of that depends on businesses.”

Ilford Business Improvement District (BID) manager Ben Collins was also wary of the change, but said bringing more residents into Redbridge could be beneficial.

He added: “It could increase footfall and bring more people in for shopping and leisure. No one likes to see empty units.”

The move is part of a wave of government changes to planning permission, including allowing temporary change of use between retail, restaurants, pubs, takeaways, offices and leisure for up to two years.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles says new rules will provide “knock-on” benefits for the community.

He added: “We’re providing a great opportunity for outdated, redundant or underused offices to be brought back to life by converting them into homes – protecting the green belt and countryside.”

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