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Sutton Council launches back-up plan against 'dormitory town' planning law
The council has a plan B in its fight against Government legislation it fears could turn Sutton into a "dormitory town".
Government legislation has given developers the power to convert offices into flats without the need for planning permission. Sutton Council, along with other London boroughs, has joined a legal battle to overturn the ruling.
In case the legal battle fails, the council has started proceedings to introduce an 'article 4 direction' that will give the council the say over planning applications within a defined area.
Although opposition councillors have argued it could be best if Sutton Council does not have complete control over plans in the town centre.
The council fears the legislation, brought in earlier this year, could lead to the loss of jobs and businesses in the town centre and that, if developers do not have to go through the usual planning process, it could result in ugly buildings with sub-standard accommodation.
Coun Jane McCoy, chairwoman of the council's housing economy and business committee, said: "It is vital that the council retains its powers to determine local planning issues.
"The Government’s plans overrule our local plans and we risk losing jobs, our town centre would lose its appeal and we could become a dormitory town.
"We are already seeing people deliberately evicting commercial tenants and it is very worrying.
We are not against changes of use, we have approved some but we have to keep a balance of commercial and residential property."
Conservative opposition councillors have backed the Government's plans.
Coun Tony Shields said: "Sutton Council had better make up their minds on the future of Sutton town centre, closing a strategic car park means that offices are even less likely to be let whereas flats would in effect make use of buildings rendered unlettable to businesses through lack of workers' parking provision."
The council has informed the Government of its plans to introduce an article 4 direction and it will consult businesses and residents. If no significant objections mare made, the direction will come into force in one year.
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