On 9 May 2013 ‘Permitted Development Rights’ came into affect. Communities Secretary, The Rt Hon Eric Pickles wanted to make the planning system work more efficiently and effectively. He also wanted it to be easier for brownfield sites to be used for regeneration and empty office buildings to be changed into residential accommodation. Basically what that means is that current office space can be converted into residential accommodation without having to get planning permission. Unfortunately this means it takes away any opportunity or right for objection, plus they are not legally obliged to contribute towards local amenities i.e. health care, schools, transport. How does this affect Hackbridge? There is an office block on Mill Green Road being converted to flats under this scheme and the latest is Bridge House on Restmor Way, wanting to convert the office into nine studio flats. Although it is good for empty buildings to be used, it is worrying that it might not always be in the best interests of the local community or the local needs. This temporary policy expires in 2016, but in the meantime, it seems like developers could use it as a money making exercise by trying to squeeze as many flats into one office block as possible. It should be noted that Sutton Council have not been in favour of this policy!