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There is set to be in London a tug-of-war between residential and commercial property – at least in certain areas. The capital needs houses: the capital needs offices. Sometimes both at the same time, in the same place. The government plans to relax planning legislation in order that change of use planning permission will not be required for conversion from office to residential. However Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has identified certain areas he believes should be exempt from the new provisions. He argues that business districts vital to London’s economy and character are at great risk if they are allowed to be subject to the new planning laws and that London as a whole – and even the UK – may suffer in the absence of his own provisions.
Johnson points to the claim that London’s economy alone amounts to a fifth of the UK GDP and to interfere with the distribution of good-quality office space may even damage the global reputation of the capital.
The mayor identifies a variety of sectors that are vital to the city’s economy – and for which the city is equally vital – including the financial services and banking, government offices, institutions and professional bodies. Not only do such sectors contribute significantly to the economy as a whole, they also employ millions of people. Boris holds that to disrupt these sectors by allowing the selling off of their very buildings could interfere with the performance of the sectors themselves.
The areas in question are: the Central Activities Zone, including the City of London; the South Bank; the West End; north of the Isle of Dogs; Enterprise Zones in the Royal Docks; and City Fringe in East London. These areas not only account for many of London’s jobs – and will do so even more in the future – but are attracting an increasing number of new UK and international businesses.
Johnson argues that the reason the above districts need special consideration is due to their value. Likely to be worth more as residential, the possibility of losing office space – which holds a different beneficial value – is very real. Businesses could be forced out of the centre of the capital, changing the whole demographic of London.
Morgan Pryce is a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.