Planning reforms will lead to substandard housing, says RIBA


The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has expressed significant concerns in its response to the government consultation on planning reforms

The proposed planning reforms outline an extended policy related to the change of use of buildings from offices to homes, which RIBA says has already been proven to lead to substandard housing.

The government’s Planning Reform: Supporting the High Street and Increasing the Delivery of New Homes consultation report suggests plans will introduce flexibility to react to local circumstances by allowing employment space to be converted into residential easily.

However, in its consultation response, the RIBA has warned of the damaging consequences that would result from expanding a policy which since it was established in 2013 has led to a drastic decline in standards across England.

Under the new planning reforms, the volume of development that can go ahead without the proper scrutiny from local authorities would be further increased. The reforms which have already been put in place have seen homes of 13 square metres, which can be smaller than some hotel rooms.

With the Hackitt Review highlighting the scale of the UK’s building safety problems, it is incredibly concerning that policies like permitted development which have demonstrably lowered standards are being pursued, says the RIBA.

RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said: “We need homes that are sustainable, long-lasting, affordable and contribute to the health and happiness of the people that live in them.

“These proposals would enable homes to be built without any scrutiny – undermining the planning system and resulting in a race to the bottom to create the cheapest possible housing. It is unacceptable that families end up living in developments like these, with not enough space to live well.

“If we are serious about tackling the housing crisis, creating homes that last and reforming the high street, we need a properly resourced planning system that enables local authorities to consider the merits of proposals on a case by case basis, not a policy that allows shoddy, small and inadequate homes.”


  1. perhaps ADD: “sustainable, long lasting, affordable, FLEXIBLE AND SUITABLE”. We have an aging population, and yet we still build houses suitable for the median market – ambulant and reasonably healthy, middle-aged, middle class – without adaptability for future changing life circumstances built in (future-proofing). It would be interesting to find out how much the volume housebuilders spend on design R&D? I expect it is negligible when compared to other industries.


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