Westminster 'losing office space equivalent to the Shard every year'

Office space equivalent to the Shard is being lost from Westminster each year in an “unprecedented decline” as workspace is converted into housing.

Westminster City Council said the trend could threaten the area’s status as a centre of international business. Developers have cashed in on the Government’s easing of planning rules to encourage “office-to-residential” conversions in recent years - writes standard.co.uk

The council is now changing its planning policy to protect office space and stop the decline.

Analysis by Westminster showed the borough lost 300,000 square metres of office floor space to residential conversions between 2013 and 2017.

The area, which includes business hubs such as Victoria and Oxford Street, stands to lose a further 730,000 square metres through ongoing schemes.

Town planners estimate that, if unchecked, more than 1,000,000 square metres could be lost in less than a decade. That works out at nearly 110,000 square metres a year — the equivalent of the Shard’s total floor area. Westminster is home to 120,000 businesses, employing 650,000 workers.

The council said it already faces a shortage of commercial property space and virtually no empty office space.

Councillor Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for planning, suggested Westminster’s ability to compete with other business-focused areas could be at risk. “If this trend continues Westminster risks losing business to other global cities, like Paris and New York,” he 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 now set to make the planning rule on office-to-residential conversions permanent. To combat this, the council will effectively exempt itself with a policy which means developers will still need planning permission to convert office space.

Mr Astaire said: “This policy helps us to strike a balance and ensure that as well as delivering more housing we can also retain suitable professional space for businesses to operate.”

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