THE SOCIETY of Chartered Surveyors (SCS) has been refused permission to convert part of its Georgian HQ into much needed office space. The SCS has always taken great pride in its period house at 5 Wilton Place, D2. But pressure on space has intensified with more surveyors looking to the SCS for help after losing their jobs. To accommodate them, the SCS sought permission to convert a top floor two-bed apartment to office/educational use and said that this would not involve physical construction works.
Planners were having none of it, as the change would be contrary to the zoning objective “to protect the existing architectural and civic design character, to allow only for limited expansion consistent with the conservation objective and to allow primarily residential and compatible office and institutional use”. It also said that by allowing the society to exceed the maximum 50 per cent office space permissible would “create a precedent for an inappropriate pattern of development”. The appeals board took the easy way out and endorsed the refusal.
The decision by the planners may have been justified when it was fashionable and profitable to own a Georgian building. Not any more, as an increasing number of these buildings become vacant as companies move to cheaper and more efficient modern space. It is now virtually impossible to let a Georgian on one of the city squares. Had the planners been in touch with what is happening on the ground they may have acceded to the wishes of the SCS. To refuse permission to a reputable society brings the planning process into disrepute. The verdict may well lead to another empty Georgian.