An application has been submitted to Enfield Council to convert Link House, an office on Southbury Road EN1, into 63 flats. The application to convert the office has been made using controversial Permitted Development rules, which means the application, if granted, would not be subject to the normal planning rules and guidelines.
This application is concerning on several fronts.
The development of Link House may negatively impact the wellbeing of future occupants. The flats will be much smaller than minimum space standards require, and the building will be overcrowded and noisy. The design of the flats means they will get limited natural light and will probably suffer from ventilation issues (e.g. over-heating, poor humidity and air flow). Furthermore, the building is on a busy, noisy and polluted road in an area unsuitable for flats.
There is nothing to suggest that flats will be affordable, despite their low quality. The developer will not need to make any financial CIL or s106 contributions to the Council which means the Council, and ultimately residents, will have to pick up these costs.
We may also lose an important local employer. Tradewise Insurance Services has been located at Link House since 2010. According to their latest accounts they employ over 160 staff and pay £6 million per year in salaries and remuneration. If this application is approved, they will need to relocate and there is a risk of them leaving the borough.
The developer may well be testing the water with this initial application. If this application is granted, they may submit further applications to try and cram in more flats which will further reduce their size.
Enfield is one of the few boroughs left where developers still have free reign to behave in this way. Until Enfield Council enacts an Article 4 direction, these applications for office conversions (on this building and others) will just keep on coming.
Update: The initial application to convert Link House was rejected due to noise and insufficient car parking for disabled people and insufficient cycle parking. However, the developer submitted a modified PD application, and this was granted in June 2020 (i.e. prior approval not required)