Hart District Council is seeking to block development of brownfield sites. It has put forward proposals to be discussed at the Planning meeting later today to implement an Article 4 direction to
Withdraw permitted development rights related to the change of use of offices, light-industrial units, and storage or distribution units to residential use within the Strategic Employment Sites and the Locally Important Employment Sites
This covers substantially all the brownfield sites in the district. We do have some sympathy for the view that simple conversion of office sites to residential is not good for the district. We much prefer complete redevelopment of these sites, so the provide higher quality housing and a better sense of place.
But the council’s approach is heavy-handed and sends a signal that they do not welcome brownfield development. Moreover, this approach will discourage the regeneration that our urban centres badly need.
The proposals call for:
- Draft Article 4 Direction and supporting documents;
- Give notice as soon as possible after a Direction has been made by local advertisement, site notice, owners and occupiers (unless reasons to justify not doing so);
- Send a copy of the direction and the notice to the Secretary of State;
- Notify the county planning authority;
- Following the above, take into account any representations received; and
- Confirm the Direction by giving notice as above and sending a copy of the confirmed direction to the Secretary of State.
They have to give 12 months notice of the implementation of the direction. They identify as risks that:
- Developers may make claims for compensation from a local authority
- The proposals could result in a rush of applications before the rights are withdrawn, it is not
possible to mitigate against this risk.
A more positive approach would be to put a policy in the draft Local Plan that unequivocally encourages redevelopment of brownfield sites and give examples of the kinds of scheme the council would encourage.
Hart Brownfield sites in Employment Land Review
The other puzzling thing is that Hart’s own Employment Land Review identifies much of the employment land in the district as:
Lower grade stock for which there is limited demand and a large supply. As a result of limited demand. The poorer quality stock is remaining vacant for prolonged periods.
They say that:
The current over-supply of lower grade office accommodation is limiting investment in the refurbishment of such stock as low rent levels make such investment unviable.
To summarise, Hart is seeking to block the redevelopment of low grade office blocks, and there’s no hope of refurbishing these into high quality office accommodation. So it seems that we are going to be stuck with many of the eyesores in the photo carousel below. They really have gone through the looking glass.