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The City Wants To Convert Bad Offices — Just Not To Residential

The City of London

The City of London is planning to introduce new rules that would make it easier to convert defunct offices to other uses — but is wary of allowing conversion to residential because of the headaches residents can cause for new developments. 

In an interview with the Financial Times, City Planning and Transportation Committee Chief Shravan Joshi said the planning body could fast-track applications to convert old offices, possibly by reducing the amount of evidence needed to justify a conversion when a developer submits a planning application. Uses like hotels, educational facilities and labs would all be smiled upon, he said. 

“There will be some savings in time and costs for developers,” he said.

But conversions to residential would not necessarily receive more favourable treatment, he said, because homeowners can stop new commercial developments that infringe on their homes by blocking light or creating noise. That could impact the City’s viability as a business district. 

The City already has an exemption from planning laws that allows offices to be converted to residential if the outside of a building is not altered. 

Joshi claimed that 80% of offices in the City are prime for new uses, but that 20% could become stranded assets because it would be difficult to upgrade them to meet environmental standards required by the government and by tenants. 

Research commissioned by the City showed demand for office space in the Square Mile would increase by 20M SF over the next decade, driven by business expansion and businesses competing for the best quality space.