The Independent London Newspaper
25th March 2017

Eric Pickles says Utopia Village offices can be turned into luxury flats

    Mary Portas joined a chorus of opposition to the plan

    Mary Portas joined a chorus of opposition to the plan

    Published: 23 March, 2015
    By WILLIAM McLENNAN

    ERIC Pickles has overruled Camden Council and said that developers can go ahead with controversial plans to convert workshops in Primrose Hill into a block of luxury flats. 

    The proposals to kick out more than 20 businesses and build 53 homes at Utopia Village in Chalcot Road were met with strong local opposition from residents and business-owners and were rejected by the Town Hall in December 2013.

    But the firm behind the works, Utopia Village Sales Ltd, appealed to the government's planning inspector and the decision was ultimately called in by Mr Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government. 

    High street TV guru Mary Portas, Dame Joan Bakewell, writer Alan Bennett, journalist India Knight, Camden Mayor and Primrose Hill Labour councillor Lazzaro Pietragnoli and British Fashion Council chief executive Caroline Rush signed a letter asking Mr Pickles to throw out the appeal.

    Under a relaxing of planning laws, introduced by Mr Pickles, owners of office space are given so-called "permitted development rights" to convert them into homes, without the need to seek planning permission. 

    But Camden Council planning officers refused to rubber stamp the works and found 15 different reasons to dismiss the application, including fears over a vast increase in traffic, extra stress on community facilities such as schools and GPs, no affordable housing, homes that do not meet current environmental standards, a lack of wheelchair-friendly units, and loss of privacy for neighbouring homes. 

    A letter, sent from from the department for communities and local government on Friday, said that Mr Pickles allows the appeal, meaning work can begin to turn the office space into 53 luxury flats. 

    Camden Council must now decide if they will appeal the decision in the High Court. 

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