Deregulation and everyday governance of property: The case of office to residential conversions in England

Authors: Benjamin Clifford*, University College London
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Political Geography, Planning Geography
Keywords: Planning, deregulation, planners, everyday practices, housing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Muses, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Whilst never perfectly formed, and always characterised through its everyday practices, the planning system in England has tightly controlled property through regulating not just the development of land but also the change of use of buildings since its comprehensive formation in 1947. In a bid to boost the supply of housing, central government changed planning regulations in 2013 to deregulate the control of the change of an office building to residential use, making this ‘permitted development’. This policy was reconfirmed in 2016, when the government announced it had been successful and significantly boosted the supply of housing. The policy has been criticized, however, for a range of perceived failings from loss of office space to the quality, location and impact on neighbourhoods of the housing being delivered. Drawing on fieldwork in five English municipalities, we demonstrate the range of consequences both for the built environment (with evidence of extremely questionable activities by some real estate developers) but also in terms of how local government officers conceive their role and perform their duties when the state withdraws from an area of regulation. This demonstrates a dualism between practices of conceptual distancing from an area of reduced influence in a high-pressured working environment and attempts to wrest back control. Overall the paper both highlights the importance of considering the actions on frontline state actors to fully understand policy making, but also the fundamental place of regulation in the way the functional machinery of the planning system.

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