Claims jobs are being lost in York as office blocks converted into homes

York City councillors have warned that a wave of developments which has seen office blocks converted into homes has eroded the opportunity to attract leading enterprises.

Opposition Labour members of York Council have claimed such developments are leading to the loss of better-paid jobs.

A debate will take place on Thursday calling for greater decision-making powers for the council on these conversions in the future.

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Coun Michael Pavlovic, who chairs the economy and place scrutiny committee, said: “Councillors across all political parties locally have major concerns that the financial incentives of residential conversions are leading to the loss of better-paid jobs in York, leaving the city heavily dependent on lower-paid sectors like tourism and retail.

“That’s bad for the next generation of workers, and will lead many to look outside the city for work, if this practice continues unchecked.”

According to figures from Labour, York has lost about 323,000 sq ft of office space during the past eight years, which could have been used to accommodate 3,000 workers.

Office blocks which have been converted into residential flats include Ryedale House, on Piccadilly, Stonebow House, on Stonebow, and Rougier House, on Rougier Street.

Coun Claire Douglas, who will also speak on the motion, highlighted the fact that developers behind the conversion schemes are not required to contribute

towards community facilities.

Firms behind developments built from scratch are required to contribute to Section 106 agreements, with the cash used to fund education, sport, recreation and open space provision, as well as affordable housing.

Members of the ruling Liberal Democrat and Green coalition have maintained that York still has one of the highest qualified workforces in the UK.

But Coun Andrew Waller, the executive member for the economy and strategic planning, claimed planning reforms are needed on a national level.

He said: “As we look to build back better and support our local economy, it’s crucial that local communities are at the heart of our recovery efforts.

“It should be they who drive the national recovery with the power and voice to shape our local areas and the future of our city.

“This can only be achieved through a local planning system, which enables councils to deliver resilient, prosperous places that meet the needs of local communities and tackle the major challenges facing our country.”

According to the latest data from the National Housing Federation, the average cost of a home in York was £276,249 in 2018/19, while the average wage in the city was £30,410.