The future of industry and diversity in the suburbs

July 4, 2011

A colleague pointed me to the Leader in Friday’s Building Design, which comments on the likely impact of the proposal to allow owners of light industrial, general industrial and storage (use classes B1, B2 and B8, respectively) to convert to housing without the need for planning permission. At first glance this is a worrying change – one which would have exactly the impact we’ve raised concerns about in the past; namely the transformation of the extended town centre into a purely residential area and the loss of the interdependent set of activities that the ‘active centre’ allows.

However, the Leader goes on to suggest that transformation to housing is less likely than the conversion of purely industrial units to live-work type uses (since the latter are easier to carry out with the existing industrial building stock). The proposition is not, as far as I can tell, that industrial buildings can be demolished and replaced with housing. With that caveat, this can only be good news and must be encouraged in the light of our research that points to the importance of adaptability in suburban areas.

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