Expert View: Residents must make their voices heard on planning

Matthew Bowen

Matthew Bowen - Credit: Archant

Matthew Bowen, Director, Aitchison Raffety, urges local people to act on a subject close to his heart.

The ability to convert offices to residential without having to comply with the usual planning restrictions and process is a well talked about issue. However, as a letter in last week’s Herts Advertiser showed, the full impact is still not as widely known.

It’s not just the loss of office space - with permitted development there is no requirement to provide social housing or enter into any s106 obligations.

This means there’s no contribution towards the additional burden on Council services such as schools, doctors, dentists etc.

As a St Albans resident with a daughter I encountered the problem of proximity within school place allocations. We were lucky as seven years ago we just got into our closest school, but we wouldn’t now.

With hundreds of new flats being built where once there were offices, the distance people need to live to a school is reducing rapidly. It is not just businesses who suffer as rents double and lack of stock forces them out though, as with the burden falling on councils to provide more services the consequences are ultimately felt by every resident.

Everyone needs to voice their concerns to the local council. Whilst they are limited in what they can do (as it’s a central government policy) restrictions can be put in place.

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If action isn’t taken urgently it will be too late and everyone will suffer the consequences for generations to come. Myself and Aitchison Raffety are working with the Chamber of Commerce and council to do what we can, but public pressure is essential. This affects everyone.

Matthew Bowen, Director, Aitchison Raffety: 01727 843232.