In a speech given by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove on 24th July new measures were set out to help unblock the housing system and allow for more homes to be built, to meet a target of 1 million new homes to be built by the end of this Parliament.
Priority for housing on inner city areas:
The priority is for housing to be focused on inner city areas, where the Government say demand is highest and growth is being constrained. As part of this, a new urban quarter has been proposed in Cambridge.
A consultation is proposed on new permitted development rights in respect of converting larger department stores, the space above shops, office space and farm diversification to help resolve housing issues. This is in addition to promoting economic gains through the extension of business premises and outdoor markets. Further measures will be consulted on in Autumn to better support house extensions. At this time though, the exact nature of the potential changes to the planning system that would be seen and their potential impacts, are not known.
With the consultations having not started the potential changes to permitted development rights have been criticised by the Local Government Association who stated that “further expanding permitted development rights risks creating poor quality residential environments that negatively impact people’s health and wellbeing, as well as a lack of affordable housing or suitable infrastructure”.
Further support to unblock the planning system
To further support the unblocking of the planning system, a £24million Planning Skills Delivery Fund has been announced to clear the backlogs and a new “super-squad” team of planners and experts is to be set up to work across the planning system to unblock major housing developments, with this team first being deployed into Cambridge. Planning fees are proposed to be increased as well, following on from the recent consultation into this matter, which could help provide additional monetary resources for local councils.
As part of the Government’s goal of creating beautiful, well-designed places, an Office for Place will be established for the promotion of design codes and it will support residents to demand what they find beautiful from developers, ensuring that local places are built to reflect the individual character of the area.
Councils are to be supported to deliver high quality, up to date local plans, with a new consultation to be launched on proposals to simplify the system of developing new local plans. This however could result in further delays in the adoption of local plans that are currently being consulted on.
The previous changes that the Government announced and implemented to the planning system have already resulted in numerous local plans being delayed whilst Council’s navigate the changes. A new national consultation being launched specifically for local plans is only likely to exacerbate these delays and create a greater backlog in the planning system.
Plans impossible to achieve
As part of the announcement Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said that the Government would not be “concreting over the countryside – our plan is to build the right homes where there is the most need and where there is local support, in the heart of Britain’s great cities”.
Statements such as these seem to make it clearer that the goal of the proposals is not to improve the planning system and promote more housing but to appeal to voters and denigrate Labour, who previously announced that Councils would be given more power to build on green belt land.
Despite Gove stating that the 300,000 homes target was always optional and that it has not actually been dropped, this is a clear rewriting of history and the measures proposed will not result in anywhere close to this target being met. It has become increasingly clear recently that the Government was never going to achieve this, with a report by the House of Commons housing committee starting that their plans would make this target “impossible to achieve.”
The target of 1 million homes by the end of this Parliament represents a significant reduction in the number of homes that were being aimed for with the previous target of 300,000 homes per year. Under this target, the number of homes built during this Parliament would have been approximately 1.5 million. Changing the target to 1 million homes represents a third less housing being built and, in the long term, will only result in more issues with the shortfall not being fulfilled. This has been highlighted by the National Housing Federation who note that that a much bigger house building plan was needed given the severe housing shortfall. The Home Builders Association have highlighted further issues with the proposals, stating that the plans “do little to address the major reasons why housing supply is falling”. Additionally, the issue of housing affordability has not been addressed in the proposals, avoiding discussions on a key issue facing people trying to get onto the property ladder.
Based on how significant the shortfall is, it is unlikely that the proposals announced will result in any significant improvements. To resolve the housing crisis, focusing on cities is not enough. There are vast areas of land throughout the country that are vacant which can provide housing, but it is increasingly apparent that the Government does not want to take advantage of such land, particularly in the Green Belt, to appease their voting base.
Even these proposals have resulted in concerns raised by Conservative MPs. The MP for South Cambridgeshire, Anthony Browne, stated in a Tweet that he will “do everything I can to stop the Government’s nonsense plans to impose mass housebuilding on Cambridge”. The fact that, even before Michael Gove’s speech, Conservative MPs announced their opposition to the proposals does not bode well for the long-term prospects of the Government’s housing goals being accepted in the long run.
About Evans Jones:
Evans Jones is a property consultancy, with offices in Cheltenham, Reading and London which has been in practice for over 50 years. Evans Jones provides professional consultancy services to the commercial sector in the areas of Town Planning, Construction, Development, Building Consultancy, Disabled Access Consultancy (Equality Act) and legal obligations associated with construction and development.
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