A developer said that it had a tenant lined up to occupy all four floors of newly built office block in Brighton, councillors were told today (Wednesday 30 September).
But it wanted use of all four floors in Circus Street, Brighton, and could walk away if its needs were not met.
This meant relaxing a restriction on the use of the building after councillors previously decided that one and a half floors should be flexible and affordable space for start ups.
The unnamed applicant said that the market had changed since planning permission had been granted five years ago.
And while the market for flexible and affordable space was now well served, there was still a shortage of “grade A” office space.
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee were told that a media and telecommunications company wanted to occupy the whole office block.
But Labour councillor Daniel Yates said that the council should hold the developer to its promise to provide low-cost space.
Councillor Yates said: “Economic development has no idea what post-covid demand will be for flexible office space.
“They do know we have a relatively low vacancy rate in the city and comparatively high rental values.
“There is strong competition for office space. It doesn’t sound to me like ‘affordable, flexible, cheap, easy to get into and get out of’ office space, is the sort of space that isn’t going to be required.
“Doesn’t it sound much more like lazy convenience for the developer?”
His fellow Labour councillor Nick Childs, who represents Queen’s Park ward, asked what consultation had been carried out with neighbours such as the Tarner Children’s Centre and people living in the Milner and Kingswood flats.
He said: “My residents there have suffered many years of disruption and false promises from this developer. I want to check they have been properly consulted.”
He was told that the nature of the application – for a deed of variation – did not require the developer to carry out any consultation.
Councillor Childs backed Councillor Yates, saying that there should be low-cost office space for start ups and small businesses in the city centre.
Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said: “The variation seems very sensible as it’s clearly had extensive marketing.
“It is good news after three years someone is taking on four floors.”
Green councillor Martin Osborne sympathised with Councillor Childs over the neighbours but backed the move.
He said: “It seems the developer has done all they can to make this viable and refusing puts it in jeopardy.
“We cannot refuse to have four floors being filled. It would have a detrimental impact on the area and the city.”
The committee voted eight to two to remove the restriction.