A number of firms in London’s east end technology start-up scene have signed a petition against government plans to make changes to development rights for commercial property, which would allow empty office spaces to be quickly converted into residential apartments.

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, recently announced measures to swiftly convert empty and underused offices into housing, without the need for planning permission from relevant local authorities.

“We want to promote the use of brownfield land to assist regeneration, and get empty and under-used buildings back into productive use,” said Pickles when the measures were announced.

“Using previously developed land and buildings will help us promote economic growth, provide more homes and still ensure that we safeguard environmentally protected land.”

However, businesses in Tech City, headed up by Shoreditch Works, a company that runs working spaces for start-ups in the area, have hit out against the plans, claiming that if the changes were brought in, office prices would increase and many start-ups would be pushed out of the area.

An online petition claims that the Tech City start-up culture in the east end of London will be placed under threat if these plans go ahead, and is asking that the borough of Hackney be exempt from the changes.

The letter to Pickles said: “The start-ups, businesses and organisations on this letter have seen fellow members of the community around East London, evolve their idea, raise finance, develop their product, and build up a talented team. The success of the tech and creative community around Hackney in recent years has meant that many of these companies are reaching the point where they are looking to move out of co-working spaces and into their own offices.

“We believe that if the changes to permitted development rights were implemented in Hackney, this could adversely affect start-ups in the area, including those who have signed this letter. The area is becoming an increasingly desirable location for residential properties, in part due to the thriving community start-ups have contributed to.”

It continues: “A number of commercial buildings have already been converted to residential properties, but if this is made possible without each conversion being considered on its merits this will drive commercial rents up and smaller businesses out of the area.”

So far, 87 companies and Tech City supporters have signed the petition. If you believe Hackney should be exempt from the changes being put in place by government, you can sign the petition here.