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East Herts Council acts to stop Bishop's Stortford business premises being converted to homes

Action to stop offices and industrial buildings in Bishop's Stortford being turned into homes is being taken by East Herts Council.

Currently, business premises can become houses and flats without the applicant requiring planning permission, using permitted development rights granted by the Government.

New rights introduced in 2013 allow the change of use of office buildings to residential use. The change of light industrial buildings of up to 500 sq m (5,382 sq ft) to residential use was introduced in 2016.

Priors, 1-5 London Road, Bishops Stortford. Site Pic. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (25740551)
Priors, 1-5 London Road, Bishops Stortford. Site Pic. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (25740551)

Now, the district council wants to introduce measures which would restrict those rights, called an Article 4 direction. As a result, it is asking residents for their views on the proposed change.

A new consultation says: “At East Herts, we are concerned about the impact this will have on the district's ability to retain existing businesses and jobs, attract new ones and provide services locally for the district’s residents, workers and visitors. Therefore, we have decided to invoke this Article 4 direction on premises within the strategic employment areas designated in the East Herts District Plan 2018.

“This means that the conversion of offices or light industrial space in those areas to residential use will require the normal planning permissions from the local planning authority from the date the direction comes into force.”

The Article 4 direction is set to become active on January 2 in 2021.

In April 2019, Bishop's Stortford Town Council objected to plans to turn an office block in London Road into 26 apartments – but East Herts Council had to sanction the scheme.

Silvergate Estates Lon Ltd submitted proposals for 25 one-bed flats and a two-bed unit, with at least one parking space for each home, at The Priors.

Members of the town council's development management committee backed neighbours' concerns about the scheme. Residents told EHC that conversion of the three-storey former solicitors’ base would increase congestion on London Road, destroy their privacy and put further pressure on parking spaces in the area.

Cllr Colin Woodward, who was a town and district councillor at the time and remains a member of Herts County Council, summed up the objections when he wrote to East Herts: “There is a shortage of office space in the town and close to the rail station. This has been exacerbated by the loss of two office blocks at Walden Court in Parsonage Lane.

“I dispute the suggestion that ‘traffic generation from the site would remain unaltered or indeed reduce’ as there is little movement at present and that was so when the site was in active use.”

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