Council takes further action to protect key employment space

The council is proposing to introduce a second Article 4 Direction to protect key employment space in the borough.

Hatfield Business Park

The Article 4 Direction would cover the most strategically important employment sites in the borough:

  • Welwyn Garden City employment area
  • Hatfield Business Park (including Bishop Square)
  • Beaconsfield Road / Great North Road in Hatfield
  • Sopers Road Industrial Estate in Cuffley

An Article 4 Direction on these sites came into effect in 2020 which removed the rights to convert office space to residential accommodation without planning permission (permitted development rights).

The new proposed Article 4 Direction would have the effect of withdrawing permitted development rights which allow the demolition of certain types of employment buildings and replacing them with residential accommodation without planning permission.

The council has taken this decision, following a number of concerns about the amount of employment space lost, with some 27,000sqm of office space in Welwyn Hatfield converted for residential use since 2013.

The impact on community was also of concern, as permitted developments are not required to provide affordable housing or the Section 106 contributions usually agreed through the planning process towards infrastructure, education and healthcare.

Councillor Stephen Boulton, Executive Member for Planning, said:

Building new homes is an essential part of maintaining the prosperity of Welwyn Hatfield. However, this needs to be carefully balanced with growing the local economy by attracting businesses, creating jobs and boosting footfall. Providing good quality employment space is a key part of that.

The council is consulting on the proposed Article 4 Direction for a period of 6 weeks until 15 March 2021. Representations can be made at https://www.welhat.gov.uk/a4d

It is proposed that the changes would take effect from 01 February 2022.