Welcome for decision to protect office space in city

Winchester MP Steve Brine has welcomed Winchester City Council's decision to invoke special powers across the city area to protect local businesses.

 

An Article 4 direction, which forms part of the Government's National Planning Policy Framework, is a tool which can be used to provide additional local control over development in a particular location, for example where local amenities or badly needed office space would be threatened. Without such protection, Permitted Development Rights can be used by council officers to change the use of a building without seeking approval through the usual planning process.

Winchester City Council has decided to invoke the order following representations from local MP Steve Brine, the Chamber of Commerce, Winchester Business Improvement District and local businesses following news that Capitol House, off Bridge Street, is to be turned into residential apartments taking away existing office space.

Steve Brine said: "We all know that housing is a huge issue locally and thankfully Winchester is more than doing its bit to bring new housing to the city. This is about balance however, protecting existing commercial space which is already in short-supply to ensure we retain a strong local economy with quality jobs.

"This is a smart decision from Winchester City Council which has clearly been listening to some well put arguments around the need to halt the automatic conversion of much needed commercial properties into residential. The legislation we passed rightly allows for this flexibility so it's pleasing councillors have used the powers available to protect the commercial wellbeing of the city centre. Huge credit must go to Nick Joynes of Natural Travel Collection, for his work pursuing this."

Nick Joynes, who met with Mr Brine at his constituency surgery to discuss the issue, added: "While the Article 4 decision is too late for Capitol House, this is certainly the correct response.  There is no argument that as a country we need more housing, but if the article had not been invoked, we would be driving existing businesses away from the business district, deterring new business moving into the city and limiting business growth and expansion within the city, stunting the progress of a business-vibrant and entrepreneurial city.

"Without the space for local business, and without protecting what remains of the city's offices, Winchester will become a city that residents have to commute from, as opposed to a vibrant hub that attracts businesses to reside, allows local residents to commute within, and encourages people to commute to."

The decision to invoke an Article 4 direction was taken by the Local Plan Cabinet Committee. It is expected to be ratified by the full Cabinet on 19th October.

Pictured; Steve Brine MP and Cllr Fiona Mather at Capitol House in Winchester

More information ...

See more from the Cabinet (Local Plan) Committee meeting at WCC on Weds 5th October 2016