In a major speech, PM Boris Johnson announced a radical overhaul of the seven decades old planning regulations. Sweeping changes will make it easier to change the use of buildings and regenerate derelict sites. The new rules will allow commercial properties to be converted to residential use while protecting libraries, pubs, village shops and other buildings essential to community life.
The package of measures, to be announced in July, is aimed squarely at providing the new homes Britain so desperately needs. Housebuilding has already fallen by over 80,000 homes since 2019 amid the Covid-19 crisis. Changes to planning permission include the repurposing of commercial properties through the reform of the Use Classes Order. Retail premises could be used as a cafe or office without the need to obtain local authority approval via a planning application.
An extended range of commercial buildings can now be repurposed for residential use and no planning permission will be required for demolition of redundant and vacant premises if the site is used to rebuild homes. Homeowners will also be able to add extra square footage using a fast track planning process allowing them to build above their property. However, this will be subject to neighbour consultation. These changes should come into effect in September.
Taking the pressure off greenfield sites
Johnson said that the changes were intended to take pressure off greenfield sites by making the development of brownfield sites more straightforward. He also announced that the government will be looking at ways in which it can manage public land more efficiently. A cross-government strategy will identify how it can be put to better use for homebuilding, contributing to net zero goals and creating growth opportunities across communities.
Despite the bonfire of red tape, developers will still be expected to adhere to the highest regulations and standards.
Home building across England
The planning announcement came as part of a wider package of support for homebuilding across England. £12bn will be made available for an affordable homes programme expected to deliver 180,000 new homes for rent and ownership over the next 8 years. This programme will also include the First Homes pilot scheme. 1,500 homes will be made available for sale at a 30% discount that will remain in perpetuity, meaning that the properties will remain affordable for subsequent generations.
The Brownfield Land Fund has been instructed to release funds of £400m across the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Sheffield City Region, Liverpool City Region, and North of Tyne and Tees Valley for the construction of around 24,000 homes. Small developers will also receive a boost with the Home Builders Fund receiving an additional £450m funding boost. This is expected to deliver a further 7,200 homes.
A modern economy
The new reforms are aimed squarely at creating a planning system fit for a modern society and economy, making it easier to build the homes people want in the areas where they're needed. The government will also bring forward a Local Recovery White Paper with details on how the government will partner with UK regions to launch the National Infrastructure Plan and legislate for further de-regulation