PM Boris Johnson has announced the most sweeping reforms of the English planning system in over seventy years to facilitate the building of better quality homes in locations where people want to live.
New regulations will give property owners greater freedom to change the use of buildings and land in town centres without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of empty and redundant buildings. In a move to kick start the construction industry and accelerate rebuilding, commercial properties will be able to be converted to housing.
The changes include giving the owners of more types of commercial buildings the flexibility to repurpose them by means of reform of the Use Classes Order. A shop premises, for instance, would be able to be transformed into a coffee shop or office without requiring a planning application and local authority approval.
Nevertheless, village shops, pubs, libraries and other types of facilities essential to communities will not be subject to the new regulations. Although a wider range of commercial buildings will be permitted to change to residential use without the need for a planning application.
In addition, builders will no longer need to apply for permission to demolish and rebuild empty and redundant residential and commercial buildings, as long as they are rebuilt as homes. Property owners, too, will be able to extend above their properties, thanks to a fast-track approval process, although subject to neighbour consultation.
Planning reforms to release public sector land
The changes, announced on Tuesday and planned to come into effect by September by means of amendments to the law, are intended to be two-fold: to support the high street revival by permitting vacant commercial properties to be repurposed quickly and to make brownfield development easier to reduce the pressure to build on greenfield land.
Developers, however, will still be required to comply with regulations and adopt high standards, albeit without unnecessary red tape.
The Prime Minister also announced that research will be carried out into how government-owned land can be managed more effectively, ahead of the Spending Review. A new enterprising cross-government master plan will consider how public sector land can be released to be put to better use.
This would include building homes, improving the environment, achieving net carbon-zero goals and providing opportunities for growth in communities across the country.
Plans for more affordable housing
The announcements accompany a package of measures to support house building across England. They include a £12bn affordable homes programme to produce up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years.
A 1,500-unit pilot scheme of ‘First Homes‘ will be included in the programme, houses that will be sold to first-time buyers at a 30pc discount and which will remain in perpetuity for first-time buyers, making them affordable for generations of families to own.
Funds from the £400m Brownfield Land Fund were allocated on Tuesday to the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region and North of Tyne and Tees Valley to enable the construction of around 24,000 homes.
The Home Builders Fund, to help smaller developers obtain finance for new housing developments, will receive an additional £450m boost, which is expected to achieve delivery of somewhere in the region of 7,200 new homes.
Policy paper for reform of planning laws
In another announcement made on Tuesday, the Government will launch a planning Policy Paper in July setting out their plan for the fundamental reform of England’s planning system, now more than seventy years old, in order to implement a new approach more relevant to the modern economy and society.
Later this year, the English Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper will be brought forward, explaining in detail how the UK Government will form partnerships with towns and cities across Great Britain, in order to create a sustainable economic recovery, launch the National Infrastructure Plan and legislate for wider de-regulatory reforms.