10 Pages

The skyscraper puzzle

Offices have generally been discouraged or ignored by planning authorities, the feeling being that work that took place there was somehow parasitic and not real like manufacturing. Offices were permitted, if at all, only in town centres. During the 1980s there was growth of ‘hi-tech’ developments with a high proportion of offices. These were permitted out-of-town on new parks on the grounds that this would encourage modern forms of industry, though much of the demand in fact came from what would now be called office users who used the non-office parts of the premises for ancillary activities like printing and packaging. This anomaly ended in 1987 when a new Use Classes Order was introduced. This is a government list of activities where change of use can occur within any category without the need for planning permission. A new B1 category of general business use was introduced which included both offices and genuinely hi-tech manufacturing. The effect was to allow offices to move out of town, and as a result many business parks were developed in the South-East, particularly in the high rented area to the west and south of London. Stockley Park near Heathrow is a good example.