A NORTHWICH MP is facing eviction from his constituency office as developers look to push through plans to convert the building into apartments.

Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale, is formally objecting to the proposals which would see the Halton 5 building turned into 108 flats by developer Empire Property Concepts.

The shadow housing minister says the plans to convert the 1970s office block in Runcorn would lead to low-quality housing thanks to controversial rules the Government is hoping to extend.

The plans for the building are covered by permitted development rights, which allow developers to convert disused office blocks into flats without applying for full planning permission, with councils only able to object on a very limited number of grounds.

Mr Amesbury said: “It’s bad enough that the current rules allow developers to turn ancient, run-down office blocks into cheap flats but under the Government’s new Developer’s Charter, these appalling conversions will become the norm.

“Robert Jenrick [housing secretary] claims the planning system doesn’t work but the truth is that most applications are approved.

"This is about the Tories giving a leg up to their developer friends, pure and simple, at the expense of local communities."

Northwich Guardian:

Seven of the planned apartments would not meet the minimum space standards set by Government, while Mr Amesbury says the developer has no plans to replace the building’s single glazed windows or make efforts to remove any asbestos from the building.

He is also concerned about fire safety and crime at the building, after police were called out more than 50 times to the nearby Castle View House development in just six months.

The use of permitted development rights also means the developer would not have to provide financial contributions to improve local infrastructure or affordable housing, and the Government is currently consulting on plans to extend these rights.

Mr Amesbury added: “I will fight these plans tooth and nail but if the Government passes these changes into law, there is nothing to stop the Tories’ rich developer mates from doing what they like here in Runcorn or anywhere else.

"I fear we are now facing a new era of slum housing in this country.

“People in Runcorn and across the country are begging for the Government to put their street before Downing Street – they need good quality housing, not matchbox flats in converted 70s office blocks."

The Government says its proposals for planning will lead to a 'simpler' development levy, include an ambition for zero carbon homes and speed up the planning process to help people get on the housing ladder.

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Following the launch of the planning consultation last week, Mr Jenrick said: "Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need.

"These once in a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country.

"We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process."