Boris Johnson has announced a major review of planning law as a key component of the government’s economic recovery plan following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The prime minister said that the government will launch a planning Policy Paper in July setting out its plan for a “comprehensive” reform of England’s planning system “to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society”.
The government will also introduce a Local Recovery White Paper detailing how the UK government will “partner with places across the UK to build a sustainable economic recovery”, launch its National Infrastructure Plan and legislate for wider de-regulatory reforms.
The Prime Minister also said that new regulations will drafted to make it easier to change the use of buildings and land in town centres to residential without planning permission. The changes are expected to be force by September this year.
The measures include:
• An expansion of the types of commercial premises with ‘total flexibility’ to be repurposed through reform of the Use Classes Order. Buildings used for retail would be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring a planning application and local authority approval. However, Pubs, libraries, village shops and other ‘essential’ types of uses will not be covered by these flexibilities.
• A wider range of commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application.
• Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.
• Property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation.
“Developers will still need to adhere to high standards and regulations, just without the unnecessary red tape,” the government said.
Other measures outlined in the Prime Minister’s speech included a review of land owned by the public sector to see how it can be released for home building as well as improving the environment, contributing to net zero goals and “injecting growth opportunities into communities across the country”.
There will also be a package of measures to support affordable home building in England. This includes:
• A £12bn affordable homes programme that will support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next 8 years.
• A 1,500 unit pilot of ‘First Homes’: houses that will be sold to first time buyers at a 30% discount which will remain in perpetuity, keeping them affordable for generations of families to own.
• The allocation of funds from the £400m Brownfield Land Fund to the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, and North of Tyne and Tees Valley to support around 24,000 homes.
• An additional £450m for the Home Builders Fund to help smaller developers access finance for new housing developments, expected to support delivery of around 7,200 new homes.