Harlow Council has agreed to look at introducing new planning directions to reduce the number of offices and industrial premises being converted into residential properties in the town.

Last Thursday’s (28 March 2019) Cabinet meeting agreed to seek Article 4 Directions for a number of industrial areas in the town and in Harlow town centre, which removes the right to Permitted Development.

Permitted Development rules allow landowners to convert offices and industrial premises into residential accommodation without the need for planning permission from Harlow Council. Article 4 directions would see landowners having to go through the normal full planning application process – a process over which the Council has greater control. There is cross-party support on Harlow Council for action to be taken to reduce the permitted development problem.

If enacted, the Article 4 Directions, would mean that planning permission from the Council is required before any more offices or industrial premises are converted to housing in The Pinnacles, Templefields (area not already covered by the Templefields Enterprise Zone site), the Burnt Mill Industrial area/offices adjacent to Harlow Town Railway Station and in Harlow Town Centre.

 The Council will now carry out statutory consultation with landowners in these areas and then the Council’s Cabinet will consider whether or not to introduce the Article 4 Directions.

 The move to seek Article 4 Directions comes after the Council’s Scrutiny Committee carried out a review of the impact of permitted development in the town. The Council is concerned that London Boroughs are using such developments for their housing shortage by placing homeless families in them. This is forcing families to move miles away from their communities, their families, and friends and where their children go to school or place of work. For Harlow, it also puts additional pressure on already stretched local services like social services, health services and the hospital. 

 At the end of last year, the Council joined other Councils in Essex to write to the Leaders and Directly Elected Mayors of London Boroughs with their join concerns about out-of-borough placements.