Enough office space to fill the Shard is being lost from Westminster each year in what has been described as an “unprecedented decline,” as workspace gets converted to housing.
Westminster City Council said that the trend could threaten the area’s status as a hub for international business as developers cash in on the Government’s easing of planning rules. This has been to encourage office-to-residential conversions. The council is now looking to change its planning policy to protect office space and halt the decline.
Westminster has seen as much as 300,000 square metres of office floor space converted to residential space between 2013 and 2017. It stands to lose a further 730,000 square metres, including in business centres such as Victoria and Oxford Street, as a result of ongoing schemes. Un less than a decade, town planners estimate a loss of as much as 1,000,000 square metres, or 110,000 square metres a year, if left unchecked. This is the equal to the total floor area of the shard. Westminster currently houses 120,000 business who collectively employ 650,000 people.
“If this trend continues Westminster risks losing business to other global cities, like Paris and New York,” Councillor Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for planning said. “We have experienced a rapid loss of office space in Westminster. It’s a worrying trend.
“Not only does this change the character and feel of our communities but our reputation as a political and professional centre relies upon maintaining the office spaces which allow business to flourish.”
The government is looking to make the planning rule on office-to-residential conversions permanent. In response, the council will exempt itself with a policy that will require developers to seek planning permission to convert office space.