Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry has promised to protect London’s remaining launderettes from new planning rules which could see them turned into homes.
Two years ago ministers introduced a temporary relaxation of planning laws to allow existing commercial buildings to be converted without developers having to seek approval from the local council – a process known as ‘permitted development’.
Although there’s a cross-party consensus that new homes are needed to accommodate London’s growing population, there’s widespread concern that the new rules will see much-needed office and commercial buildings disappear.
All four parties on the London Assembly have expressed concern that viable firms are being forced to relocate outside the capital or close down as building owners seek to cash in on the booming residential property market.
There have also been complaints that removing the need to obtain planning permission means councils are unable to levy financial contributions on developers to help pay for any transport links and amenities needed to support new residents, leaving existing council tax payers to foot the bill instead.
Despite these concerns, Housing minister Brandon Lewis last year confirmed the rule change would be made permanent and extended to cover other types of properties, including “light industrial buildings and launderettes”.
The Green candidate says bringing the capital’s 600 launderettes into the rules’ scope would rob Londoners of “a vital safety net”.
Ms Berry said many Londoners still live in properties which are too small to accommodate a domestic washing machine while other households need to rely on a launderette when their own machine breaks down.
She commented: “London’s remaining launderettes are mostly going concerns and provide a vital safety net for many people. They need protection and everyone in London should have one within walking distance.
“There are two busy launderettes on the street I live on, providing a valuable service to our whole area for washing large items, and for the inevitable occasions when home washing machines break down.
“The government’s plans take no notice of the important social role these facilities play in promoting healthy communities and a lifeline for everyone, whether they own a washing machine or not.
“I will be arguing hard against these changes and standing up for London’s launderettes by putting forward a well-justified exemption from these new rules if I am elected.”