‘Beds in sheds’ warning for Brixton town centre

Lambeth Town Hall, by Laura Spargo
Lambeth Town Hall, by Laura Spargo

By Kaye Wiggins

Brixton faces the worrying prospect of a rise in substandard “beds in sheds” housing, one of the council’s top planning officials has warned.

David Joyce, assistant director of planning at Lambeth council, told the Bugle a change in national rules would allow unscrupulous landlords to rent former office buildings out as housing with no checks being made on quality or affordability.

“I worry we will end up with beds in sheds arrangements, substandard accommodation that is let out as bedsits,” he said. “They will be expensive units but they will also be of poor quality.”

Brixton town centre and Brixton Hill were the areas at particular risk, he said.

The term “beds in sheds” refers to the practice by rogue landlords of renting out poor quality housing, often in cramped conditions in garages and outbuildings, at extortionate rates and usually to vulnerable migrants.

Last year, the then-housing minister Grant Shapps said it was “simply not acceptable that people should be forced to live in such squalid and unsanitary conditions” and gave nine councils, which did not include Lambeth, a share of a £1.8m pot to address the problem.

Lambeth’s new concerns have arisen because under government plans, landlords who own office space will be able to convert it to housing without planning permission from the council.

The government claims the policy will bring underused buildings back into use and create much-needed new homes.

However, the council has complained that it cannot raise questions about the standard of the housing or its amenities and has no power to require the landlord to rent out some of the housing at ‘affordable’ rates – a power that it does have with other housing developments.

It can only object to the conversions if there is a flood risk, evidence of ground contamination or a bad impact on local traffic.

“We have no say whatsoever on the quality of the housing in these conversions,” Joyce said. “That is what worries me – it’s the prospect of a return to the dark ages.”

He said it could also lead to a reduction in affordable housing, “because if a developer can buy an office building and turn it into housing without needing any of it to be affordable, why would they bother taking on other projects in which the council would tell them to include affordable housing?”

“I think the policy was designed for a places outside London where there might be empty office units that need to be used. But it’s a one size fits all policy that doesn’t work in London,” he said.

Lambeth council has also estimated that, in a worst-case scenario, up to 2,000 jobs could be lost in the borough through the conversion of offices to housing – although Joyce said the real figure was likely to be much lower than this.

His “beds in sheds”  warning comes as Lambeth council launches a legal challenge to the government’s policy. It hopes the challenge will lead to Brixton and Streatham being exempted from the new rules.

However, in response to the legal challenge a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said it would “vigorously defend” the policy.

Electric Avenue
Electric Avenue


Front page picture by Laura Shimili


  1. Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative.

    I am going to watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful if you continue this in future.
    Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    Stop by my page Herbalife review

Comments are closed.