It has become a little more difficult for developers to convert offices into housing after a council formally adopted new measures to protect employment spaces.

Last summer, Hertsmere Borough Council agreed that developers must seek planning permission in order to turn any buildings into residential units.

Developers can, under permitted development rights, convert offices, distribution buildings, and storage rooms into homes without the need for a planning application.

But developers working in Hertsmere will now have to go through the normal planning process if they want to turn these buildings into homes.

In total, 13 employment spaces are bound by the new planning regulations, called 'Article 4 directions'.

These are Elstree Way, Stirling Way, Theobald Court, Borehamwood Enterprise Centre, and Wrotham Business Park in Borehamwood; Centennial Park and Lismirrane Industrial Park in Elstree; Cranborne Road, Station Close, and Hollies Way in Potters Bar; Otterspool Way, off the A41 in Bushey, Beaumont Gate in Radlett, and Farm Close in Shenley.

Although the changes were agreed last year, the idea was put out for public consultation, and the 12 month period for consultation passed last month.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the council believes now is the time to bring the changes into effect.

Councillor Dr Harvey Cohen, responsible for planning, said: "Given the current coronavirus crisis, we felt it was important that these new Article 4 directions should now come into effect.

"It's our ongoing aim that local planning rules safeguard businesses and jobs, but it's especially important now to protect our commercial heartlands, as they will be vital for Hertsmere’s economic bounce-back following lockdown.

"Previously under the prior approval process, if a developer wanted to convert offices into housing, it was only necessary to show that their proposal was acceptable with regard to its impact on transport and highways, contamination risks, flood risk and noise impact.

"It meant we had no power to refuse development because it would have forced an existing business to move or because the proposal didn’t include affordable housing, for example.

"We felt that proposals which could dramatically change the nature of important areas of employment in the borough should require the submission of a planning application."

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