Crawley businesses ‘damaged’ by office conversions

Ron Crank chief executive of Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership
Ron Crank chief executive of Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership

The viability of businesses in Crawley are being damaged by the conversion of offices to flats, one business leader has warned.

Ron Crank, chief executive of Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, has written an open letter to Anna Soubry, minister for small businesses, highlighting the effects of Permitted Developments Rights (PDRs) and calling for reform.

The Government policy enables a change of use of certain buildings without usual planning permission, such as turning business premises into residential housing.

Mr Crank said: “The loss of crucial employment space in Crawley is so rapid and at such a scale that business growth is being prevented. 500,000sq ft. of employment space, the equivalent to nine football pitches, will have disappeared by the end of 2015.

“That means hundreds of job opportunities lost. The loss of employment space is equivalent to nearly 2,000 office jobs or over 500 manufacturing jobs. There is also a growing threat to the town centre economy. Over 60 per cent of employment land is being lost in Crawley town centre preventing new jobs and business investment.”

In the letter Mr Crank also wrote about the threat to Crawley’s Manor Royal Business District, one of the largest business districts in the South East, and said that around 30 companies have been evicted from their offices to make way for residential properties via PDR.

He added: “This is a major issue across the Coast to Capital region and, I would imagine across the South East. The Government needs to reconsider this policy particularly in the south of the UK.”

His letter concludes: “Most of the businesses affected are SMEs and struggle to relocate when displaced. Building homes in a business district is also unsuitable for many reasons, not least because some businesses will be unable to operate and grow in proximity to residential housing.”

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