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Councillor hits out at office to housing conversion policy

by martingosscolchesterppc on 9 October, 2019

Changes in the planning laws which allow office blocks to be converted into flats without planning permission need to be scrapped, and for planning permission to be required which was the case until a few years ago.

That is the opinion of leading Colchester Councillor Martin Goss who is also the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Colchester at the next General Election.

Councillor Goss has made his call following the disclosure that the three-storey Seatrade House office block in North Station Road has been bought for more than £1 million and is to be converted into 15 flats – for which no planning permission is required. The relaxation was made by the last Government.

“I am not opposed to the principle of empty office blocks being converted into housing,” explained Councillor Goss. “What I am saying is that they should be subject to planning consent. This is not only fair on those who will be living in the flats, but also the community in which such office block conversions are located.”

Councillor Goss made his comment after concerns were raised that the former offices at Seatrade House are almost in the playground of North Primary School which it is in front of – and the flats will overlook the day nursery just a few feet away.

The main pedestrian entrance to the School is a passageway built as part of the office block as a requirement of the planning consent when the office block was built more than 40 years ago.

Councillor Goss said: “I understand that Essex County Council had been alerted to buying Seatrade House because the building would have made welcome additional space for the school and the car park would have significantly eased parking pressures which the School has.

“Unfortunately, such is the high value for properties that can be converted to residential use without the need for change of planning use, what would have been a much welcome addition for the benefit of the School meant that the price was way above the value of the building as an office block or for educational use.”

Cllr Martin Goss outside Seatrade House where the proposed conversion will occur.
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