Cheltenham's MP, Alex Chalk, has taken the fight to protect the Eagle Tower from conversion into luxury flats to Parliament.
The town's MP joined local councillors and other stakeholders in successfully opposing a previous attempt last summer by developers to convert the building, which provides valuable office space for a number of local companies, for residential purposes. Now he has raised the issue of the latest planning attempt, submitted before Christmas by the building's owners, in the House of Commons. Questioning the Leader of the House, Chris Grayling MP, Mr Chalk said:
''Successful local businesses in Eagle Tower, a prominent office building in my constituency, have recently been informed that they will have to vacate so that floors can be converted under so-called permitted development rights. May we have a debate to consider whether the planning system affords adequate protection to high-quality occupied business space, which is vital for generating jobs in...Cheltenham?''
In his response, the Leader of the House recognised the concerns raised, stating he had a 'valid point' and suggested Mr Chalk take the issue up with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He went on to emphasise the underlying principles behind Government's policy regarding permitted development, which aims to unlock disused commercial buildings and land, providing much needed space for affordable housing.
Following his intervention, Cheltenham's man in Westminster, who has already written to the Secretary of State for Communities, Greg Clark MP, to request a meeting on this subject, commented:
"We all recognise the need to unlock derelict and disused commercial space. I've made exactly that point myself in my grot spot campaign. But, far from being a disused building, Eagle Tower is an occupied and thriving business hub which provides employment to many Cheltonians. I plan to take this up further with the Secretary of State.''