The man responsible for planning policy in Harrow has warned legal changes allowing offices to be converted to homes could result in job losses.

In May 2013, the Government introduced changes to planning laws which allow developers to convert offices to housing without applying for planning permission.

While the policy was meant for empty offices, Harrow Council says developers have used the opportunity to convert current office space to housing, meaning 31 of the schemes that have benefited from the changes in Harrow are for office space currently in use.

A total of 55 schemes have now been approved, both occupied and vacant, and will lead to more than 3,000 potential jobs being lost in Harrow.

Cllr Keith Ferry, who is responsible for business, planning and regeneration, said: “This is a disastrous policy. The Conservatives are allowing developers to make a mint by building terrible, rabbit hutch-like homes in a process that will close offices and mean that people will lose their jobs.

“We all know that there is a housing crisis in Harrow; but instead of these back of the fag packet policies that will hurt our local area, what the Government should be doing is working with councils to build high-quality affordable homes.”

Homes that are built under the office to residential scheme do not have to meet any internal design, space or environmental standards, as would normally be required to obtain planning permission, nor do they have to meet any targets for affordable homes.

Government rules also allowed councils to apply for areas to be made exempt, however Harrow Council’s application to have Harrow & Wealdstone Town Centre excluded from the scheme was rejected.