B1 to C3 ends in W1
Cryptic?. Let us explain:
Rodić Davidson Architects are regularly asked to assist clients with change of use applications to convert offices (Use Class B1) into residential houses and apartments (C3). Over recent years we have undertaken many such projects in Westminster (W1 amongst other postcodes) a Borough that, uniquely in London, has not adopted a policy to restrict the loss of offices.
Westminster’s policy is, however, to change. Recent research by the Westminster Property Association (WPA) suggests that 1/20th of office space has been lost in Westminster in the last four years – a total of half a million sq metres. The office loss equates to 7,631 homes being created in the converted space. Given Westminster’s average population density of two people per home, it means that £15,262 people have been housed – replacing the 78,000 employees who previously occupied the space and – one must presume – have moved to other London Boroughs. Currently 600,000 people work in Westminster and so this number of displaced employees represents a very sizable proportion.
At Rodić Davidson Architects, we have witnessed this pressure first hand having been involved in over 30 schemes in the Borough proposing a change of use from office to residential.
Councillor Robert Davis, The Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Built Environment has recently intervened to stem the loss. Although his estimates for the loss of office area are not as high as those by the WPA, he acknowledges the‘indisputable’ nature of the loss and, in his note of 18th March 2015 titled,‘Westminster City Council approach to residential conversion’, acknowledges that the current policies, ‘are now out of date’ and that, ‘after 1st September no office losses will be acceptable, except where a developer can demonstrate that the benefits of the proposal taken as a whole outweigh the loss of office floor space.’. He goes on to say that, ‘given the importance of Westminster’s office stock, this will be rare’.