Westminster City Council today announced plans for a clampdown on office-to-residential conversions in central London.

The council launched a consultation on planning policies to encourage and protect offices in central London, warning it needed to take action to “stem the loss of business floorspace”.

It is proposing relaxing requirements to provide equivalent residential space when office space in a building increases by more than 2,150 sq ft.

The proposed approach would allow increases of up to 30% of the original building without any requirement for housing.

Between 30% and 50%, the developer would be able to decide whether to provide the residential floorspace on-site, off-site or by a credit, or make an appropriate payment in lieu.

But above 50% uplift in floorspace, the original policy will apply.

In addition, when an office-to-residential conversion increases the amount of floorspace by more than 30%, the council proposes requiring an equivalent amount of commercial floorspace and/or social and community floorspace. 

Alternatively, these proposals may be refused where the mix of housing proposed does not outweigh the loss of the office floorspace. However, these proposals will not apply if the office was originally built as housing.

There will also be new policies on credits and land use swaps to offer greater flexibility.

Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said: “Westminster needs to grow its commercial floorspace, particularly offices, in order to remain globally competitive. The need to reverse the current trend cannot be overstated given Westminster’s role in the London and UK economy.”

Westminster warned 1.8m sq ft of offices have been lost tor residential over the past four years, with a further 1.7m sq ft of losses in schemes under construction and potential losses of up to 2.7m sq ft in planning applications granted but not started.

The consultation is open until 27 February 2015.