Employment space in Welwyn Hatfield protected from development

PUBLISHED: 09:39 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:39 08 October 2020

Hatfield Business Park. Picture: Kevin Lines.

Hatfield Business Park. Picture: Kevin Lines.


Key employment sites in Welwyn Hatfield have been protected through an Article 4 Direction, in effect from Monday, which will stop office buildings being converted for residential use without planning permission.

The most strategically important office sites in the borough such as Welwyn Garden City employment area, Hatfield Business Park, including Bishop Square, Beaconsfield Road and Great North Road in Hatfield and Sopers Road Industrial Estate in Cuffley have all been protected.

The council took the decision after the loss of 27,000sqm of office space in Welwyn Hatfield since 2013 and concern that office to residential conversions do not require affordable housing to be provided or the Section 106 contributions usually agreed through the planning process towards infrastructure, education and healthcare.

Councillor Stephen Boulton, executive member for planning, said: “We want to ensure Welwyn Hatfield continues to be a place where communities and businesses thrive. Building new homes is an essential part of that but we also need to balance this with investment in the local economy, providing good quality employment space for businesses of all sizes and types, so it continues to grow and creates new jobs.”

Permitted development has been criticised for allowing office to home conversions that create mostly “worse quality residential environments than planning permission conversions” – by a report for the Local Government Ministry, which was carried out by the University of London, – and may have affected the health, wellbeing and quality of life for renters in the UK.

However, the government did announce last month that these homes have to ensure a minimum space standard, which begins at 37m² of floorspace for a new one bed flat with a shower room (39m² with a bathroom).

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “While most developers deliver good homes and do the right thing, I’m tackling the minority of developers abusing the system by announcing that new homes delivered will have to meet space standards.”

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council also unanimously agreed in July to look at enacting more Article 4 directions as the government will allow commercial units – except pubs, libraries, village shops and other buildings essential to communities – to be converted to homes without seeking local government approval.

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