Labour shadow housing secretary in Crawley to pledge end to ‘slum housing’ in former offices

Peter Lamb, Labour leader of Crawley Borough Council and John Healey, Labour's shadow housing secretary, outside a permitted development with more  than 200 flats in Russell Way, Crawley
Peter Lamb, Labour leader of Crawley Borough Council and John Healey, Labour's shadow housing secretary, outside a permitted development with more than 200 flats in Russell Way, Crawley

Labour’s shadow housing secretary was in Crawley yesterday to announce that if elected a Labour Government would scrap permitted development rights where offices can almost automatically be converted into new homes.

Legislation introduced in 2013 allows developers to bypass the normal planning process and convert commercial spaces into housing without the consent of councils and local community.

This means developers do not have to provide affordable housing nor meet basic space standards.

Research for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors found that permitted development has ‘allowed extremely poor-quality housing to be developed’, with only 30 per cent of homes built through permitted development meeting national space standards.

Meanwhile national figures suggest 42,000 new housing units have been converted from offices since 2015.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, was in Crawley on Wednesday (April 24) on the day of the announcement.

He said: “Conservative permitted development rules have created a get-out clause for developers to dodge affordable homes requirements and build slum housing.

“To fix the housing crisis, we need more genuinely affordable, high-quality homes. This Conservative housing free-for-all gives developers a free hand to build what they want but ignore what local communities need.

“Labour will give local people control over the housing that gets built in their area and ensure developers build the low-cost, high-quality homes that the country needs.”

Peter Lamb, Labour Leader at Crawley Borough Council and prospective parliamentary candidate for the town, added: “In Crawley, perhaps more than anywhere else, Permitted Development is creating havoc in local neighbourhoods and robbing public services of the money they need to adapt to new housing.”

When he met the Conservatives’ housing minister to raise the issue he felt his concerns and those of his residents about PDRs were not properly listened to.

He added: “Labour have listened and are backing local Crawley residents, rather than helping developers to fill their pockets at the cost of our community like the Conservatives.”

Labour said it would end the ability of developers to convert non-residential buildings such as offices, storage units and industrial buildings into homes without receiving proper planning permission.

It would also reverse, if brought in before the next election, further permitted development proposals, including to convert fast food shops into housing and to demolish commercial buildings and rebuild them as new housing.

All of these types of development would be possible under a Labour Government, and many would be encouraged, but developers would need to secure planning permission in the usual way.