Boris Johnson yesterday announced once-in-a-lifetime changes to the planning rules while also baiting green activists as he vented his frustration at the UK’s house-building record.
“Why are we so slow at building homes by comparison with other European countries,” he asked.
“I tell you why – because time is money, and the newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country.”
Consequently, buildings are to be allowed to change use from commercial usage to residential without the need for planning permission, and house builders will be able to demolish existing vacant residential and commercial buildings and build new homes in their place, also without planning consent.
Rules on brownfield development are also to be significantly relaxed to get enable Johnson to deliver on his ‘Build, Build, Build’ programme.
And home owners will be able to add extension and stories above existing floors via a fast-track process, assuming their neighbours agree.
The changes to the planning system will go live in September.
But the strategy, which is to be set out in a more detailed policy paper later this month, will face considerable opposition both from the planning profession and the public.
Too often it is their protests against new housing developments in their area that are the key stumbling block to progress, rather than Johnson’s ‘red tape’.
Nevertheless most estate agents and developers have welcomed the measures, including the NAEA.
“Propertymark welcomes the Prime Minister’s ambition to bounce back as we enter the new phase of this pandemic,” says its Chief Executive Mark Hayward (left).
“It is important that as we try to reboot the economy we build a greater supply of affordable houses that can rejuvenate urban areas most affected by this crisis.
“Simplification of the planning process will ease the pressures caused on the supply of homes and ensure the property market drives the UK’s economic recovery.
“We look forward to working with government during its White Paper process later this month to ensure the system has less red tape and is easier to navigate.”
Developer Adam Lawrence, Chief Executive of London Square, (left) says: “Removing red tape from the planning process is essential. The situation has got worse in recent years as a result of austerity hitting local authorities, who need to leverage as much as possible from every development, which means longer delays and more process. This time we have to see action.”