PDR, which allows people to convert disused offices into homes without applying for planning permission, was introduced temporarily in 2013. It was announced last week that this change will be made permanent in May next year.
Business leaders in the town are extremely disappointed at the decision, saying that this blanket policy does not work for Crawley because PDR stifles business growth and increases local cost pressures.
The policy has resulted in:
- A significant loss of employment space in Crawley, with more than 500,000 sq ft to have disappeared by the end of the year. This is the same size as about nine football pitches
- Residential developments to be built in the wrong locations, including the Manor Royal Business District
- An adverse impact on Crawley’s community, as noisy building work takes place without notifying residents, there is no opportunity for the council and local people to consider the merits of residential development and no obligation on site owners to consider how residents access waste collection services
- Crawley being more acutely affected than other areas because of its special characteristics as a major regional centre for business growth, wealth generation and job creation.
Rosemary French OBE, Executive Director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, said: “We are very disappointed at this decision. To date, in the Gatwick Diamond area, PDR rights have reduced commercial property availability to such an extent that potential inward investors are going elsewhere and local businesses are finding it very difficult to grow into new space and thus are at risk of leaving this area. Businesses have even been forced to leave office premises to make way for residential development.
“This is a classic example of unintended consequences of a decision which was meant to help more disadvantaged areas breathe life into their vacant town centres. It just does not work here.”
Steve Sawyer, Executive Director of the Manor Royal Business Improvement District, said: “Manor Royal Business District is called a business district for a reason. It’s right that local people that need houses get houses but they have to be the right quality and in the right place. That place is not Manor Royal.
“The current policy allows speculative development to come forward in an unplanned, ad hoc way to the detriment of everyone. We will continue to support and work with the council to help to protect valuable and much sought after commercial space in Manor Royal.”
Jeremy Taylor, CEO of Gatwick Diamond Business, said: “It is vital that we protect our limited employment land. Whilst it was very well intentioned, there is no question that Permitted Development Rights (PDR) have affected the availability of office space and have caused a number of thriving businesses great difficulties.”
Councillor Peter Smith, Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development, said: “PDR is damaging the economy in Crawley and it’s affecting businesses and residents. The town has unique requirements and this policy is causing many more problems here than it’s designed to solve.
“We want flats in the town centre and around 1,800 are in the pipeline. But we want control over where these flats go, how many flats are created and how big the rooms are. Under this policy we have no say on any of this.
“We’re losing much-needed employment space at a time when we’re excellently placed to attract even more high value business and jobs growth.
“PDR simply doesn’t work for anyone in Crawley.”