Labour councillors slammed “rabbit hutch” homes proposed for Barnet House which could be as small as 16 sq metres. 

A planning application was lodged to change the use of Barnet House from office space into 254 studio flats over 11 floors, dividing resident opinion.

Now Barnet Labour Cllr Ross Houston has criticised the policy which allows “developers a free hand to bypass proper planning process.”

He said: “These rabbit hutch homes would turn Barnet House into a human filing cabinet with people squeezed in to tiny spaces.”

Permitted development rights allow certain planning processes to go forward without the need for local authority planning permission, such as change of use requests from office space to residential homes.

Parliament grants these requests rather than the local authority, though requests can be appealed in specific circumstances, such as if the development involved a conservation area.

Leader of Barnet Council Richard Cornelius said: “It is always difficult for a local authority when something is happening in its area over which it has no control.

“The government has given developers power to convert businesses premises into residential premises under permitted development.

“The sizes of some of the flats would not be what we think are appropriate living spaces for our residents and we do not support the scheme in its current form.”

But Cllr Houston said that there has been opportunity for these policies to be opposed Cllr Houston added: “The Barnet Tories refused to vote for our motion opposing the extension of permitted development rights when the Government first proposed this, so it's a bit rich for the Council Leader to now say it's out of his control."

The plans show that studio flats will range from 31sq metres to as little as 16sq metres, while one bedroom flats will be around 41sq metres.

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