Yesterday Boris Johnson announced the “most radical reforms of our planning system” as part of his ambitious post Covid economic recovery plan. This will make it easier for new and better homes to be built and extended.
A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday declared that new regulations will be introduced to enable more new homes to be constructed. Also announced were a package of financial measures to boost housing in various regions across England.
One of the economic effects of the Covid crisis has been the acceleration of the pre-existing decline of the High Street. During lockdown consumers have increasingly relied heavy on internet shopping and many will continue to do so. Social distancing rules have resulted in queues outside shops which are off-putting for many would-be shoppers. The initial rush on the High Street is now quietening.
The new regulations will give greater freedom for developers to convert existing commercial properties – including shops – into residential ones often without the need for planning consent. This should result in the regeneration of the High Street with pleasant residential developments replacing disused shops. It provides a boost for landlords who have lost rents due to vacant shops which have decreased in value as a result. Sales to a developer will allow them to liquidate their asset, hopefully at a profit.
The Government has pointed out that the relaxing of existing rules does not mean a relaxation in building standards. New developments will still need to comply with building regulations. But the “red tape” surrounding applications will be reduced.
A financial boost for the development of affordable homes coupled with changes in the Help to Buy scheme will assist first time buyers being able to buy these newly constructed homes.
Housing development on more brownfield sites will reduce the pressure on greenfield sites bringing with it environmental benefits. The Government is also considering more effective utilisation of its land.
A second benefit is the relaxing of the regulations around home extensions. More extensive alterations may no longer require planning consent. What constitutes permitted development will be greatly expanded. There may even be a relaxing of the rules on basement extensions which is something that would boost values in Prime Central London terraces.
That is good news for many homeowners who have spent lockdown in the realisation that their home is too small for their needs. Upwards development is still likely to require neighbour consultation however.
Think tanks such as the Adam Smith Institute have been lobbying for some time for relaxation of the planning rules governing extensions arguing that homeowners should have an unfettered right to extend their homes albeit in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood. The Government has clearly listened to those.
These proposed planning reforms will boost the property market generally although it will take a little while for the new supply to come through given that the planning changes will be coming into effect in September 2020.
Rishi Sunak’s economic update on 8 July 2020 may hint at how these plans are going to be paid for.
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