31 July, noon: Standing with Posh Girl on the ninth floor of an empty 1970s office block by a flyover on the A13 at Pitsea in Essex. With us is Mr X, beaming with pleasure.
Mr X because no one in the Permitted Development Rights game wants to be associated with turning clapped-out offices into ‘hovels for the homeless’, as Posh Girl disparagingly calls them. The owners hide behind shell companies that lazy journalists don’t investigate.
Mr X had a mixed day last week. A report by a bunch of sandal-wearing academics disparaged his noble efforts. What if the units are 17 sq m with only one window? They give an 18% IRR when rented to councils. They stick in the homeless under some sort of licence, rather than a tenancy, to skirt laws that would have proper tenants squealing about their human rights.
Mr X is squealing with delight at the news that the government wants PDR units to fill empty shops. GBH has tasked Team P with serving up £150m of this rubbish to Mr X, who has just bought the block we’re standing in. We get into his Roller and make our way up the road into the bombed-out high streets of Basildon. It’s only business, right?