Westminster City Council in London is to restrict the number of new estate agent branches being set up after opting out of a key piece of planning legislation.
The council says the number of new agent branches increased from 179 to 228 during the 12 months ending February 2016, an increase of 27.4%.
“This represents the largest percentage increase of all London boroughs,” says Julia Corkey, the council’s Executive Director Policy, Performance and Communications (pictured).
The council also says research among shoppers within Westminster showed consumers were “aware of the proliferation of estate agents in some shopping centres” and that some specifically requested ‘fewer estate agents’ as well as more and better retail.
To enable the council to control the number new estate agent branches it has told the Secretary of State that from January 1st estate agents wishing to change retail usage from shops into branches will have to apply for planning permission.
This means the council has opted out of Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning Order 2015 which enables retail premises to be switched via ‘permitted development’ from shops to financial and professional services without planning permission.
Robert David, deputy leader of the council, told the Financial Times that the increase “has put the character of some centres at risk. These measures will protect variety on our high streets and improve everyone’s shopping experience”.
Existing agents would appear to agree with the move. Ed Mead, formerly of Douglas & Gordon, Trevor Abrahamson of Glentree International and property consultant Charles McDowell are quoted in the Financial Times article backing the new policy.