Labour Leader describes as “totally unacceptable” the transfer of London council residents to Harlow without contribution to the town’s infrastructure as Council passes motion to act on conversions of offices into residential accommodation
At last Thursday’s (November 1) Full Council meeting, members unanimously agreed to explore all options available to halt further conversions of office space and industrial space into residential units.
These conversions are made under central Government “permitted development” legislation through which building works and changes of use can be carried out without making a planning application to the Local Authority.
Consequently, a number of buildings in industrial areas such as Templefields have been converted and are now housing families who have been relocated to Harlow by London Authorities, unable to cope with the demand for housing in their own borough.
Acting on a detailed report produced by the Council’s Scrutiny Committee, Leader of the Council, Mark Ingall, proposed that the Council enter into immediate dialogue with Government to seek a moratorium on any further such developments.
Councillor Ingall also proposed that the Council pursue additional applications for Article 4 directions which would mean any such proposed conversions would need to apply through the normal planning process, enabling the Council to exercise its powers in relation to location and quality of any conversions.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Ingall said: “These developments are not good for our existing residents or for the new residents who are being transferred out to Harlow by their own Local Authorities.
“The locations are unsuitable and in some cases unsafe. Local amenities such as schools and GP surgeries face increased pressure and the knock-on effect on our residents without any financial contribution from the London Authorities, is totally unacceptable. We are determined to act in the interests of everyone affected.
“I have written to the Leaders of those Councils who are taking this self-serving action asking what they intend to do to show responsibility for the vulnerable residents they have sent here.
“We will use the law to try and prevent any further conversions that are not properly planned and that do not contribute to the services and infrastructure needed and we will seek to enter into dialogue with the Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government
“I understand that Robert Halfon has already sent a letter to the Secretary of State adding his voice to that of the Council and that is welcome.”
During the debate, members of both sides of the Chamber spoke about the unsuitability of these conversions particularly for families with young children, the pressure they placed on the town’s already stretched local services and facilities and the unfairness of London Authorities using Harlow as a quick fix to their housing problems without committing funds to support our strained infrastructure. The motion was passed unanimously.