Boris Johnson yesterday faced criticism from the London Assembly after failing to block Government planning changes which will allow offices and commercial spaces to be turned into flats without planning permission.
The policy, introduced on a temporary basis last year, is set to become permanent leading to fears that millions of square metres of much needed commercial space could be lost.
Labour Assembly member Nicky Gavron said it was “a reckless measure which sacrifices jobs.”
She added: “There is a huge amount at stake for London. Permitted development drives up the land value of employment space – even where property owners don’t convert, they will use it as a reason to increase rents, forcing businesses to close or to leave London.”
Ms Gavron raised the issue at Wednesday’s Mayor’s Question Time where she was supported by Assembly Members from all four parties.
Conservative AM Tony Arbour told the Mayor how 15 businesses had been forced out of Richmond by a landlord seeking to increase rents under threat of converting their workspace to flats.
He warned that the absence of planning permission meant councils could not impose financial contributions on developers, leaving existing council tax payers to fund any new schools, transport links and amenities needed to support new residents.
The Mayor has promised to write to ministers to relay the Assembly’s concerns and express his own reservations about the policy.
Ms Gavron said: “The Mayor boasted about his influence in Westminster during the last campaign but when the Government decided to allow the permitted development for offices to residential he only managed some exemptions for a few parts of London. Now, just over a year later, they’re taking even those away.
“I hope Boris has more influence now because thus far he’s certainly failed to stand up for London on this issue.”