Westminster City Council has proposed a new policy to be included in its City Plan 2019-40 which would protect office space within the area following the government’s planning reforms.

The policy would protect Class E office space from being changed to hotel or residential space, but not from being turned into retail or restaurant space.

The council is also planning to scrap its 35% affordable housing levy on commercial development within its central activities zone in favour of a tariff-based system.

The rates have not yet been specified but all development creating new space for Class E uses of more than 10,764 sq ft will be subject to an affordable housing contribution via a flat £/sq m rate.

However, there will be a different £/sq m rate depending on which CIL charging zone the site sits in and change-of-use schemes will not be subject to the contribution.

This will also mean that on-site affordable housing provisions from commercial developments will not be required.

The council is also looking to remove the protection for Class A1 retail and instead require commercial developments to have an active frontage at ground level.

“The shift away from a blanket tripling of the existing housing levy on commercial development to a more nuanced tariff-based approach is welcomed,” said WPA chair Olivia Harris.

“Our representations to the city council and planning inspector have consistently warned of serious risks to future development, and the delivery of affordable housing it supports, had the previously proposed policy been adopted. However, the rate at which the new tariff is set will be critical.”