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Maidstone offices protected from 'overnight' housing conversions through Article 4 direction

Prime office space has been protected from "overnight" conversions into housing.

Last night Maidstone councillors voted in favour of new powers stopping offices being converted without a planning application going in.

Miller House before it was converted into flats and its name changed to Miller Heights
Miller House before it was converted into flats and its name changed to Miller Heights

Office owners are able to convert buildings into residential without an application under permitted development rules.

But a new Article 4 directive has protected 14 sites in Maidstone town centre - and more could be on the way.

Maidstone Borough Council's head of planning said offices were at risk of being converted "overnight".

Cllr Brian Clark, a member of the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee, said: "Residential conversion has outstripped local demand, making Maidstone a target for London boroughs looking for low cost housing to service their housing need.

"As many of our neighbouring boroughs either protect or are looking to protect office space in this way, we would be especially exposed if we did not take this course and, with the high level of current conversions, we would also risk jeopardising the provision of commercial space necessary through the local plan period."

When offices are converted to flats without a planning application, a local authority cannot negotiate with a developer, so no money is contributed schools, open spaces or libraries.

Since 2013 691 flats have been created in the town centre through office space conversions.

Last year Maidstone Borough Council voted against bringing in powers to stop permitted development conversions.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone.

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