Norwich City Council has launched a public consultation about its application to the Secretary of State.
The application is seeking powers to help control the number of offices in the city being turned into residential properties.
Since changes to the planning system in 2013 introduced permitted development rights to convert offices to flats, around 30% of office stock in Norwich has been lost, which has significantly impacted on the supply of available office space in the city centre.
The city council is now applying for an Article 4 Direction to protect Norwich’s office economy and the wider economy it serves.
A review of office accommodation in Norwich, commissioned by the city council, found the market was in a ‘fragile and vulnerable’ condition partly due to the significant loss of offices in the last 8 years.
The review concluded that an Article 4 Direction was needed, which, if granted, would take away the permitted development right to convert offices into flats – mostly within the city’s inner ring road – and any application for change of use would require full planning permission.
Councillor Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for sustainable and inclusive growth said:
“We want an Article 4 Direction to protect Norwich’s office economy, which is important to the city’s economy as a whole.
“We asked for the report to also look at the effect of Covid-19 on office use in the city and the conclusion was that demand for offices in Norwich is not going to reduce significantly.
“People will want to return to the office, if only for part of the week, for a number of reasons and we as a council need to make sure the office space is there for them.”
An Article 4 Direction would not prevent all offices being changed into flats, but will give the city council more control over any proposed changes.
To have your say about whether an Article 4 Direction is appropriate for Norwich visit the consultation webpage.
The public consultation opens on Thursday 29 July and will run for six weeks.