Loss of Offices to Flats

Posted on Feb 14, 2014

Loss of Office Space in Putney:

All correspondence can be seen at the end of this page.

Many residents and businesses in Putney are very concerned at the accelerating loss of office space in the area. Offices are often considered “good neighbours” as they do not disrupt residential areas at night. They frequently provide good quality local employment with less need for commuting on overcrowded transport and their staff bring significant daytime business to the small local retailers that residents are so concerned to retain. The effect of not retaining offices will be increasingly to turn Putney into a dormitory town, increase congestion on the trains and causing increasing numbers of the small shops dependent upon the daytime trade to have to close.

 There are several causes of this loss of office space. The policies in WBC's Local Plan adopted in 2012 required that new developments should retain the same area of office space as the buildings that they replaced. On NO occasion in the last 3 years since the creation of the policy has the Planning Department or the Planning Application Committee sought to enforce the policy. Retention of space on URR approved developments has varied at best from 52% to a miserly 12% at the worst. In October 2010, WBC’s "response to consultation on the DMPD and SSAD" in the section for Putney stated "Clarification has been added to both the DMPD and SSAD that replacement office floorspace is the key policy objective in this part of the Upper Richmond Road" (para 3.101).

Why will the Council not comply with its own policies?

 The second reason for the loss of offices is that the owners of buildings containing offices can turn these offices into residential if they can demonstrate that they have been unable to let these offices for a period of 18 months. Unsurprisingly this has led to an inventive industry of how to make your offices un-rentable and little evidence that the Council wishes to unmask these attempts. Offices in the vicinity of Wandsworth Park are now being offered on 3 month rolling leases making them unviable for the high quality SMEs that currently occupy them. The Notification for change of use of this building has now been lodged. A further example exists within central Putney where an application has been submitted for conversion of relatively newly built offices in Walker Place to residential claiming there to be no demand. Yet we are aware that two long established small businesses providing local employment have made offers through the letting agents and have received no response to their approach.

 The third reason for the loss of office space is due to the central Government (Pickles and Boles) changing the rules on what is called Permitted Development, by extending this for three years (until May 2016) to allow any office to be converted to residential accommodation, “to solve the housing crisis”.  The justification was to deal with outmoded 60’s and 70’s buildings, but since no change can be made to made to the exterior of the building the effect locally has been the loss of mainly of more modern buildings. This has led to huge concerns in local government administrations, even of the same political persuasion as the Government, about the damage that this relaxation of planning would have on local economies. The London Mayor has applied for and received some exemption for parts of central London.

 Wandsworth applied for exemption for the town centre part of Putney, supported by the Society, but were refused, as were most of the other authorities who tried.

 In summary the Society is greatly concerned that the combined effect of the above three issue will leave Putney bereft of office space for the medium and small employers that we have benefitted from in the past.  Capsticks was lost by Putney to Wimbledon. We should lose no more.

The Society letter to Justine Greening MP and Ravi Govindia Council Leader can be read by clicking on this link:- Letter on loss of offices

The response from Councillor Govinda can be read by clicking on the following  link:- Councillor Govindia response

In response to Councillor Govindia's reply above the Society wrote again highlighting areas not covered by the first reply:- Second letter to Councillor Govindia

 Councillor Govindia's reply to the second letter can be read here:- Councillor Govindia second reply


......And finally a response from Justine Greening MP dated 7th February and received 20th February, unfortunately skirting around the issues that we addressed to her:- Justine Greening MP response

This may not seem important to Putney residents, but the next time your favourite shop closes ask what happened to their weekday trade?