Government announces planning law proposals and infrastructure investment

Property owners are to be given the chance to make their properties bigger by up to two storeys in a bid to make planning laws less bureaucratic and outdated, while more money is to be committed to infrastructure, it has been announced.

Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick has unveiled a package of measures under permitted development rights, building on an idea that his predecessor Sajid Javid first mentioned 18 months ago.

The idea was originally aimed at town centres and would have still have required some planning approval but under the new plans, families would be able to build up to two storeys using the same rules governing the same system used for small extensions and loft conversions.

The right will be allocated first to purpose built blocks of flats, but will eventually be rolled out to all detached properties and while owners will still need to comply with building regulations, neighbours will not have a formal route to object.

The aim is to allow growing families to expand their property without moving and encourage developers to add new homes to existing buildings but there are concerns that it could result in unsightly developments.

Jenrick said that he also wants to accelerate the conversion of disused and unsightly commercial properties into residential homes and the plan is that under the permission in principle system, developers will not have to get detailed planning permission.

The aim is to create more attractive and prosperous High Streets by replacing eyesores with family homes, reduce the need to build houses on green field land and in the countryside.

Big developers could be offered the option of a fast track planning service in return for higher fees, all as part of a package aimed at boosting new home creation.

Meanwhile, Javid announced significant investment in infrastructure which is seen as an important part of overall plans to boost the building of more new homes. More money is being committed to transport links and connectivity.

However, Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the British Property Federation, urged caution about the further expansion of permitted development rights to allow property owners to build up to two additional stories to purpose built flats and detached houses.

‘At a time when the industry is prioritising community engagement and increasing transparency, allowing significant alterations to properties without formal engagement could alienate the communities we need to be supportive,’ he said.

‘Planning departments have seen some of the most severe cuts of any local authority service, with per-person spend on planning falling by 555 between 2010/2011 and 2017/2018. A part of the solution could be changes to process being contemplated via the Accelerated Planning Green Paper, but a part of any solution must also be additional resource,’ he pointed out.

Jamie Johnson, chief executive officer of FJP Investment, pointed out that one of the most common criticisms of new builds is the lack of infrastructure around the housing developments. ‘So by strengthening these fundamentals the foundations are hopefully being laid to enable more affordable homes to constructed across the UK. Now we must see if the Chancellor can follow through on his promises,’ he said.

The proposed reforms to planning regulations is a step in the right direction, according to Paresh Raja, chief executive officer of Market Financial Solutions. ‘Having the vision is one thing, the challenge is ensuring political posturing translates into actual policy and action. I now look with interest to the 2019 Autumn Budget, which will give the Government the opportunity to turn these announcements into legislation,’ said Raja.

Jerald Solis, director of Experience Invest welcomed the announcements on infrastructure and planning. ‘The housing crisis is one of the most pressing issues affecting the UK at present and one of the most common criticisms of new builds is the lack of infrastructure around the housing developments, so this is certainly something the Government must address. Now we must see if the Chancellor and Housing Secretary can follow through on their promises,’ he explained.