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Plan to protect city office space comes into effect

Photo of City Hall in Norwich with the text Council news and the Norwich City Council logo Published on Tuesday, 21st February 2023

The city council's plans to protect office space in Norwich and stop it being changed to residential use have been given the go-ahead by government.

The ‘Article 4 Direction’ which protects key office space in the city and ensures any workspace in the area converted into homes is of a good standard, comes into effect from tomorrow (22 February) and means that full planning permission is needed to change many offices in the city centre into living space.  

In July 2021, Norwich City Council made the Article 4 Direction to remove more relaxed planning rules for the conversion of offices to residential premises in the majority of the city centre. But the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) turned this down, asking the council to take a more targeted geographical approach.

The city council then worked to redefine the area covered by the Article 4 Direction – with the aim of protecting a variety of both small and large offices of strategic value to the city, while allowing any truly redundant and less important office space to be able to be converted to residential use under relaxed planning rules. The Article 4 Direction will not prevent all offices being changed into flats, but it gives the city council more control over any proposed changes and ensures enough office space is kept to meet demand.

The city council has now received confirmation from DLUHC that they are satisfied with this revised area and a modified Article 4 Direction comes into force from tomorrow (22 February).

Councillor Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for sustainable and inclusive growth said: “This is really good news for the city – it protects important office space, vital to Norwich’s economy and ensures that those work spaces which can be more easily converted into homes are done to a good standard.

“Since the pandemic, people have enjoyed returning to offices in the city, if only for part of the week, and this ensures a number of these important spaces remain for future use.”

A map showing the offices included within the Article 4 Direction along with the modification notice and further information can be viewed on the council’s website

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