The Government has released proposals to tackle the UK planning system with a view to speeding up house building as part of its Productivity Plan.
The Chancellor George Osborne last week said that the Government is changing the country’s planning laws to make it easier for house builders to develop more residential properties.
Under the new plan, planning consent would be granted automatically on suitable disused industrial land, limiting delays to development, under the reforms, while a higher number of brownfield plots could also be seized for development through new compulsory purchase powers.
What’s more, major infrastructure projects that feature new homes will be fast-tracked to meet local housing demands.
“Britain has been incapable of building enough homes,” said George Osborne. “The reforms we made to the planning system in the last parliament have started to improve the situation: planning permissions and housing starts are at a seven-year high.”
“But we need to go further and I am not prepared to stand by when people who want to get on the housing ladder can’t do so,” he added.
The Chancellor’s planning changes were described as a “major step towards solving the housing crisis” by Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
He commented, “For some time, the whole construction industry has being challenging the Government to solve the housing crisis at its root cause: supply. Ministers’ renewed focus on supply will in turn improve affordability, which is another top priority for the current Government.”
Mr Berry continued, “Housing has for too long been put in a separate box from economic development, infrastructure needs and productivity. The announcement marks a significant step towards correcting that imbalance. It also shows an admirable determination to free up smaller locally-based house builders to do what they do best and deliver high quality housing on small sites in sustainable locations.”
Stewart Baseley (left), Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation (HBF), also welcomed the changes announced by the Government.
He said, “The lack of available developable land and delays in- and cost of- the planning system are the biggest barrier to the country building the homes it needs. If the industry is to increase supply closer to the level needed we need more land to come through the system more quickly.
“Speeding up the rate at which planning applications on previously developed land are processed; and closing the gap between central government ambition and local authority performance is key.
“In recent years house building rates have been lower than for many decades creating an acute shortage of decent housing. Increasing build rates will provide people with decent housing and boost the economy.”
Nicholas Leeming (right), Chairman of Jackson-Stops & Staff, says that he would like to see the promised sweeping reforms also remove much of the red tape which slows down the current planning system.
He said, “This new planning package offers some excellent changes and, if successful, could make a big difference to helping to solve the current housing shortage. However, the Government needs to ensure that these sweeping reforms do not get obstructed by the detailed negotiations which surrounds any planning application.
“Delays are often more about roads and communal facilities as the level of housing. These are all important elements in creating new communities and must be factored into the promised changes. The continued devolution of powers to Manchester helps to consolidate its position as the centre of the Northern powerhouse.”
Steve Sanham, Development Director at HUB, the mid-market specialist developer, has cautiously welcomed proposed changes to the planning system, but is waiting on further detail before giving a full endorsement.
“This is a very positive announcement by the Chancellor, but as with previous announcements about simplifying the planning system, which have only had limited impact, the devil will be in the detail,” he said.