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Protecting office and business space

The Council is leading the way in protecting office and business space in the borough from being converted to residential use.

Local shops, cafes, restaurants

We recently served Article 4 Directions on retail, café and restaurant premises in Bidborough, Horsmonden, Langton Green, Sissinghurst, and Woolley Road, Southborough.

In a study we identified premises in these locations as being of high risk, in that if they are lost to residential use then there are no or very limited alternatives and they are unlikely to be replaced, therefore having a detrimental effect on local communities.

Article 4 Directions mean that developers cannot use the permitted development rights that exist in national planning legislation that would allow them to convert business premises to residential without submitting a planning application.

Offices in Royal Tunbridge Wells

We first took action back in 2018 when it was identified that 22 per cent of office stock in Royal Tunbridge Wells had already been lost to residential use and a further 22 per cent was at risk. Twenty immediate Article 4 Directions were issued on office buildings in the town centre preventing permitted developments rights from being used to convert or change their use without full planning permission.

Changes to legislation governing permitted development rights now mean that these Directions will cease to have effect from July 2022. Updated research indicates there is still a need for the premises to be protected even though the demand for offices may change in the future. As a result the Council has now issued non-immediate Article 4 Directions to come into force once the existing Directions expire, and two additional Directions on premises not covered by those served in 2018. Subject to the agreement of the Secretary of State, this means that protection for these buildings will continue.

Depending on their uptake, the new permitted developments rights may pose a threat to the town centres of Paddock Wood, Royal Tunbridge Wells and Southborough and the centres of Rusthall and Pembury. We will closely monitor these areas and will move to serve further Article 4 Directions if necessary.

Cllr Alan McDermott, Portfolio-holder for Planning and Transportation, said:

‘The Council made strong representations about the changes to permitted development when they were consulted on earlier this year, and in 2020. We have since moved swiftly and positively through the service of 31 Article 4 Directions to protect those offices, shops and cafes where the risks and consequences of loss to residential are greatest. We will continue to monitor the various town and neighbourhood centres, and we are poised to serve more if necessary’.

These permitted development rights do not apply within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or to Listed Buildings. Therefore no directions have been served in those settlements in the AONB, or Frittenden or Five Oak Green.

Details of the individual Article 4 Directions are available on our permitted development page.

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