Housing is needed. Green space is precious. And, after the coronavirus, some offices could be left empty. Anyone currently campaigning against the obvious solution of converting disused office space into housing would surely be mad?
Except, that is exactly what is happening. At the end of August, a campaign group calling itself “Rights: Community: Action” (RCA) launched a legal challenge to the government’s most recent extension of permitted development rights (PDR), which allows developers to demolish some commercial buildings in order to homes. A second recently passed statutory instrument, which also came into force on 31 August, gave homeowners and private landlords the right to extend upwards (in limited circumstances), without applying for full planning permission.
The RCA group claims the statutory instruments were passed too quickly and in breach of Article 3 of the EU’s Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and Article 149 of the Equality Act 2010. It also accused the housing minister of favouring developers. Some of these claims look likely to be tested in the High Court in October, and a judicial review could be launched. Pitching the so-called ‘climate emergency’ against the need to build homes for hard-working families seems, to me at least, misled. The ‘environmental’ campaigners insist they want more consultation, but where do they propose to house people? On greenfield land?