Fourteen of the highest quality office buildings in Maidstone are to be protected through an "Article 4" directive, preventing their conversion to residential use through "permitted development" following a successful proposal made by Cllr Brian Clark and seconded by Cllr Clive English at Maidstone’s Strategic Planning Committee. An Article 4 directive prevents a building being converted under permitted development and ensures developer contributions are collected for local services through the planning process.
This decision comes a year after a similar plan had been rejected by the Strategic Planning Committee, and subsequently by a single vote at the Policy and Resources Committee of the Council, following an unsuccessful call in by Cllr’s Clark, Mortimer and Wilson. After the meeting Cllr Clark said, "I am really pleased that the committee has now decided to take this path. Residential conversion has outstripped local demand, making Maidstone a target for London Boroughs, looking for low cost housing to service their housing need. As many of our neighbouring boroughs either protect or are looking to protect office space in this way, we would be especially exposed if we did not take this course and, given the high level of current conversions, we would also risk jeopardising the provision of commercial space necessary through the local plan period"
Cllr English added, "Fourteen sites have been agreed this evening to move forward for article 4 protection, but the proposal allows the review of further sites for consideration. Should any such site owner still wish to convert, the application will now go through a formal planning process allowing contributions for local services, including schools, roads and medical facilities, to be collected"