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Pickles prompts fears of town centre 'free-for-all'

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HOPES that the council would be able to keep control of all town centre developments have been dealt a blow by the Government.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has refused to grant Croydon an exemption from a new policy which will allow redundant office blocks to be converted into housing without the need for planning permission.

Councillor Jason Perry, cabinet member for planning and regeneration, said the exemption would have encouraged a better use of empty buildings.

He said the council already had a policy of granting permission, where appropriate, for the conversion of office buildings, with the Nestlé building in Park Lane a prime example.

At the same time, the council is anxious to concentrate office development around East Croydon and Cllr Perry does not want that policy overridden by developers converting offices in what should be a business-led area.

He said: "What we don't want is a free-for-all. We want excellent offices around East Croydon and we want to ensure high quality office conversions."

Achieving that, he said, would be harder under Mr Pickles' policy.

"That is why we applied for an exemption from the policy," he added.

"We wanted to be able to carry on doing what we are doing and we are disappointed we were not granted the exemption."

Mr Pickles said the legislation to amend the Town and Country Planning Act gave a clear signal to owners, developers and local planning authorities that the Government wants underused and outdated offices to be brought back to life to create much needed new homes.

Pickles prompts fears of town centre 'free-for-all'


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