Housing secretary Michael Gove has launched proposals to extend permitted development rights and a £24m boost for planning skills, in bid to reach the government’s 1 million new homes target set out in its 2019 manifesto pledge.
In his announcement today (24 July), Gove said he will introduce rules giving flexibility to convert shops, takeaways and betting shops into new homes.
He also pledged an additional £24m through a Planning Skills Delivery Fund, to be set up immediately to help clear backlogs in the planning system and ”get the right skills” in planning authorities.
Developers will also be asked to contribute more through fees, ”to help support a higher-quality, more efficient planning service”.
A new “super-squad” team of leading planners and other experts will also be set up to work across the planning system to unlock major housing developments, starting in Cambridge to “turbocharge” the government’s plans in the city.
The housing secretary unveiled plans to slash red tape to enable barn conversions, as well as repurposing architectural buildings and disused warehouses, with a priority for inner-city areas.
A review was also launched into the extension of permitted development rights for homeowners, to make it easier for them to build upwards and outwards, with extensions and loft conversions.
“Most people agree that we need to build more homes, the question is how we go about it,” Gove said.
“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.”
Prime minister Rishi Sunak added: “Today I can confirm that we will meet our manifesto commitment to build 1 million homes over this parliament.
“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 reforms today 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.”
However, Stuart Baillie, head of planning at property consultancy Knight Frank, said: ”This announcement is unlikely to have meaningful impact on housing supply.
”It’s likely that the output of this policy will only create hundreds of new homes, instead of the many thousands needed to make a real impact on the UK’s significant housing shortage. This policy will only paper over the cracks, instead of getting to the heart of the issue.
“Local planning authorities will be very concerned that the proposals could create a loss of retail capacity, impact local retail amenity and reduce the vitality of already struggling town centres that have fallen victim to the rise of online shopping in recent years.”
Shaun Davies, chair of the Local Government Association, added: ”There is no doubt that we need more homes as well as to reinvigorate our high streets and town centres. However, premises such as offices, barns, and shops are not always suitable for housing.
“It is disappointing that the government have ignored their own commissioned research that concluded that homes converted through a planning application process deliver higher-quality homes than those converted via permitted development rights. The proposals are also at odds with their ambitions to give local communities greater control over developments where they live.”
Ritchie Clapson, co-founder of propertyCEO, said: ”It’s certainly good to hear that the government is continuing to assist in the conversion of existing empty commercial buildings into new homes.
”However, I don’t agree with cutting back on the conversion rights of empty agricultural buildings into residential through permitted development. These empty buildings already exist and there is no tangible detriment to the countryside in converting them. If they are not being utilised then it makes sense to repurpose them; we need homes in all areas, not just inner cities.”