Housing secretary launches new government planning reforms

Current housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has revealed new government planning reforms claiming that they will “bring Britain’s planning system into the 21st century”.

According to the announcement, local authorities will be encouraged to build “upwards and above and around stations” to revitalise high streets and “take a more innovative approach to home building”.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will consult on a new permitted development right to allow housebuilders to swiftly demolish vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings and replace them with homes.

Starting in April, the department will launch a register of brownfield sites, pinpointing unused land. This follows plans announced in yesterday’s Budget to make £400 million available for mayoral combined authorities and local areas to build on brownfield land. All councils will need to have up-to-date local plans in place by December 2023 or face government intervention. MHCLG said it would review how councils determine housing need in their area “and incentivise those that deliver on those numbers”.

MHCLG have confirmed that they will offer more assistance for those wishing to build their own homes and for parish councils and neighbourhood forums “wanting to build a small number of homes that will allow their community to grow”.

Robert Jenrick said: “I want everyone, no matter where they live, to have access to affordable, safe, quality housing and live in communities with a real sense of place – as part of our mission to level up, unite and unleash the potential of this country.

“We must think boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future, and this is just the first step, so we can deliver the homes communities need and help more young people onto the ladder.”

Mike Scott, Chief Property Analyst at Yopa, comments: “The government clearly had other priorities on its mind when putting together yesterday’s Budget, which was more focused on the short-term response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic than on the country’s long-term housing needs. However, there were some helpful measures announced in the Budget, and in this morning’s statement from the Housing Minister. More money will be made available to build affordable homes for purchase or rent, and planning restrictions will be eased to encourage more housebuilding, especially on brownfield and city centre sites. From next year, non-UK residents will face a 2% Stamp Duty surcharge on the purchase of residential property, giving people who already live in the UK a competitive advantage when buying a home, especially in the prime areas of London which have many international buyers.

“While welcome, these measures do not go far enough. Increased housebuilding takes many years to have much effect on house prices and rents, even if the government finally starts to deliver on its ambitious targets for the number of new houses built. Easier planning permission won’t help if developers are still limiting the number of homes that they build in order to keep prices up, and we would have liked to see a stick as well as a carrot, penalising developers who maintain large banks of undeveloped land. We would also have liked to see some more help for the people who are struggling to buy their own homes right now, in the form of government support to enable mortgage lenders to reduce their deposit requirements and lend more generously.”

James Thompson, CEO of Gleeson Homes, had this to say: “Gleeson welcomes the Government’s announcement to use the planning system to help boost the supply of affordable housing and enable more people to get onto the property ladder. What is urgently needed are greater efforts to unlock brownfield land, near to where people want to live and work, so that ultimately developers can get on and build. We are committed to helping people achieve the dream of homeownership. Building high-quality affordable two, three- and four-bedroom homes, starting from just £90,000, for people on low to moderate incomes in the North and the Midlands. The majority of our customers are hardworking young first-time buyers and keyworkers who are keen to put down roots and have a stake in their local community.

“The construction industry has a huge role to play in generating economic prosperity through employment and training opportunities for people. This needs to be at the heart of the Government’s Northern Powerhouse and levelling up agenda.”

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