Rishi Sunak will announce a series of proposed changes to the planning system on Tuesday to encourage developers to build more homes, in a bid to boost development in urban areas even as housebuilding collapses nationally.
The Prime Minister and Michael Gove, the housing secretary, will announce a consultation on a package of measures to make it easier for developers to obtain permission to build on derelict sites in England’s 20 biggest cities.
But while some builders welcomed the move, others in the sector accused the government of trying to distract from the wider slowdown in construction caused by Gove’s previous decision to allow local authorities to avoid strict construction goals.
Sunak said in a statement: “We are committed to building the right homes in the right places – protecting our precious countryside and building more in urban areas where demand is highest. Today’s package allows us to do just that.
Gove added: “Our new brownfield hypothesis will tackle underdelivery in our key towns – where new homes are most needed to support jobs and drive growth. »
Under the proposals, councils would have to approve any new development on brownfield land – land that was previously developed but has fallen into disrepair – unless they can give a good reason why they cannot.
Limits will also be removed on the types of former commercial buildings that can be converted into apartments, removing restrictions on the size of the building before a developer must apply for planning permission.
Ministers will also consult on making it easier for homeowners to extend their homes without seeking planning permission.
The last idea has already been tried. Former Prime Minister David Cameron attempted in 2012 to eliminate red tape for single-storey extensions up to 8 meters long, in a move criticized as a “free-for-all”, but was forced to turn around after a violent reaction from his own MPs.
Some housebuilders have welcomed the government’s proposed changes, consultation on which will continue until March 26.
David Thomas, managing director of Barratt Developments, said: “We welcome any effort to make it easier to obtain planning permission, particularly for brownfield regeneration, which is already understandably a more complicated and time-intensive process. in capital. »
However, others pointed out that the new builds that would be unlocked by the government’s latest plan would be far less than the developments that were lost due to previous changes to the planning system.
In December, Gove announced that councils would no longer be required to meet strict housing targets set based on predicted population growth and could allocate less land for development to avoid changing the character of a local area.
The move, first reported a year earlier, led to a widespread decline in development plans, with many councils choosing to delay, halt or scale back their local housing plans. The number of new housing units, calculated by the number of energy performance certificates issued, fell by 9% in 2023 compared to 2022.
A spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation said: “While we welcome any move to develop land more quickly, this consultation announcement will do little to solve our housing crisis.
“If we are to reverse the sharp decline in housing supply we are currently seeing, we need serious, concerted policies, not marginal tinkering. »