Council takes action to protect key employment space

Following consultation last year and a Cabinet decision in August, key employment space in the borough is now protected by an Article 4 Direction.

The Article 4 Direction comes into effect on 12 October, removing permitted development rights that have previously allowed office buildings to be converted for residential use without planning permission. It covers the most strategically important office sites in the borough.

The sites protected are:

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

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 office to residential conversions do not require the development 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:

We want to ensure Welwyn Hatfield continues to be a place where communities and businesses thrive. Building new homes is an essential part of that but we also need to balance this with investment in the local economy, providing good quality employment space for businesses of all sizes and types, so it continues to grow and creates new jobs.