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Government unveils latest planning overhaul to boost housing stock

The Government has set out yet another attempt to meet it manifesto commitment to build 1m homes over this Parliament.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Housing Secretary Michael Gove yesterday proposed a new overhaul of the planning system to boost the supply of homes.

Sunak said the Government will focus on prioritising building in inner-city areas where demand is highest and growth is being constrained rather than in the countryside.


This includes a new urban quarter in Cambridge that will “create new beautiful homes, supported by state of the art facilities with cutting-edge laboratories and green spaces.”

The Government said it will take steps to unblock the bottlenecks in the planning system.

This includes a £24m Planning Skills Delivery Fund to clear backlogs and get the right skills in place, already unveiled earlier this year, to recruit and train more planning professionals.

The Government announced said it will also set up a “super-squad” team of planners and other experts charged with working across the planning system to unblock major housing developments. The team will first be deployed in Cambridge.

Developers will also be asked to contribute more through fees, to help support a higher quality more efficient planning service.

There will be new flexibilities to convert shops, takeaways and betting shops into homes will help to rejuvenate the high street. Meanwhile, red tape will be cut to enable barn conversions and the repurposing agricultural buildings and disused warehouses, the update said.

A review into permitted development rights will aim to give homeowners freedoms to extend homes, convert lofts and renovate new buildings and to convert existing properties into new accommodation. 

No timeframe is given for these proposals.

Gove said any developments must be beautiful, come with the right infrastructure and designed with locals in mind.

To help, a new Office for Place has been launched to lead a “design revolution” and ensure local people have a say in how housing is designed.

The Government has also unveiled yet another consultation on reforming local plans, to make them simpler, shorter and more visual, showing clearly what is planned in local areas so communities can engage.

Sunak said: “We need to keep going because we want more people to realise the dream of owning their own home.
“We won’t do that by concreting over the countryside – our plan is to build the right homes where there is the most need and where there is local support, in the heart of Britain’s great cities.

“Our reforms will help make that a reality, by regenerating disused brownfield land, streamlining planning process and helping homeowners to renovate and extend their houses outwards and upwards.”

Gove added: “Rather than concreting over the countryside, we have set out a plan today to build the right homes in the right places where there is community support – and we’re putting the resources behind it to help make this vision a reality.

At the heart of this is making sure that we build beautiful and empower communities to have a say in the development in their area.”

Commenting on the announcement, Oli Creasey, property research analyst at Quilter Cheviot, said, like much of the housing policy that has come before, it is somewhat of a damp squib.

He added: “In principle, it’s a sensible policy. The issue with the longstanding target to build 300,000 homes a year is that it is too blunt – in theory it’s relatively straightforward to build thousands of homes on an out-of-the-way brownfield site – far more difficult is developing the surrounding infrastructure (schools, jobs, shops, etc) that make people want to live there. Prioritising construction within existing urban centres alleviates this issue – the infrastructure is already there.

“However, urban construction isn’t easy either. Easing planning restrictions will help, but the land is more expensive, building costs are higher, and rezoning former retail sites (for example) as residential developments could tip the balance of homes vs amenities in the other direction. 

“Part of current planning constraints does come from so-called “NIMBYism”, but it also reflects the desire of local councils to not hollow out their town centres with new apartments.”

Creasey added that planning departments are generally under-funded and struggling to work through existing backlogs.

He said the £24m fund to address this is “somewhat underwhelming," adding:  “We will await further details on the proposals, but our initial view is that this is unlikely to have a significant impact on the number of planning approvals, or the number of homes built. 

“While this policy isn’t designed to line the pockets of the housebuilders, they do have an interest in these proposals and as such it is important to watch how their share prices reacted to the news. The fact that these share prices have been largely unchanged tells you all you need to know – nothing will really change and the chronic shortfall of housing in the UK will continue.”

Charles Jordan, head of new homes at estate agency brand Winkworth, was slightly more positive.

He described the proposals as a step in the right direction, adding: "A predictable and efficient planning system improves business confidence which the UK needs right now. This should enable companies to make long-term investment decisions with greater certainty, leading to more strategic and sustainable growth and lower inflation.

"More lenient permitted development rights would stimulate economic activity in the construction industry. Home improvement projects like extensions and conversions can create jobs and drive demand for building materials and services. Additionally, encouraging upward and outward development will address housing needs by increasing the housing stock."

  • icon

    Last gasp bull from a failed politician who will be sacked or moved at the next Cabinet reshuffle. Total waste of space. The Housing Minister role is just a holding appointment until they get moved on/out, usuall rhetoric without substance sadly.

  • Glenn Taylor

    If these words do not equal action our Country will continue to decline and fade. But the positive element is the recognition. That is a good base and is welcomed.
    The policy of urban extension and brownfield development for me is not enough. Our villages need development and regeneration as they have faded over the past 10 years with the changing economy. 1000s of pubs have closed as well as shops and post offices leaving no communication hubs for the young and the elderley. If the villages planned for 50 to 75 new homes the housing targets would quickly be achieved. The problem with huge urban extensions and new settlements on Brownfield sites is that it takes too long to deliver the numbers and provides the wrong accommodation and environments. Villages are the life blood for our growing population and it would be very easy to find the land, get the planning and deliver the housing while expanding existing schools/surgeries to cater for the increased numbers. More villages should move from Catergory one and two to minor service centres.


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