RUNCORN MP Mike Amesbury has slammed plans to evict him from his constituency office and turn it into low-quality housing.

The Weaver Vale MP and shadow housing and planning minister is formally objecting to proposals which would see the Halton 5 building, a 1970s office block in Runcorn, turned into 108 flats by Doncaster-based company Empire Property Concepts.

Mike says that controversial rules being extended across the country by the Government could allow the development to be permitted, with many flats being below minimum space standards and not carbon neutral.

He is also objecting on grounds that the developer has no plans to replace the building’s single glazed windows or to remove asbestos and raised crime concerns after police were called out more than 50 times to a similar neighbouring development.

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.

Mike says that government reforms to the planning system will make it impossible for communities to block these proposals, while developers will not be required to contribute vital infrastructure funding.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

“It is 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,” he said.

“Robert Jenrick 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.

“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.”

A spokesperson for Empire Property Concepts said: “We look forward to breathing a new lease of life into this old office building, and this will include replacing the single glazed windows with double glazed windows. They will be anthracite on the outside and white on the inside.

“We are operating safely in terms of asbestos. At present the building is covered by an existing asbestos management survey which we are complying with. Before we begin work on the building, we will instruct a full refurbishment and demolition survey which will identify any asbestos and the safe removal of.

“These new apartments at Halton 5 will do a lot to enrich the local area, adding to footfall in the local shopping centre and restaurants. We are proud of our track record of providing quality, affordable housing in other prominent North West buildings that would otherwise lay empty.”