Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced radical reforms to the planning system, giving freedom for buildings and land in town centres to change use without planning permission

The new reforms to the planning system regulations will also create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.

Under the new rules, existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily, in a move to kick start the construction industry and speed up rebuilding.

The planning system changes include:

  • More types of commercial premises having total flexibility to be repurposed through reform of the ‘Use Classes Order’.
  • 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.

These changes, which are planned to come into effect by September through changes to the law, will both support the high street revival by allowing empty commercial properties to be quickly repurposed and reduce the pressure to build on green field land by making brownfield development easier.

Developers will still need to adhere to high standards and regulations, just without the ‘unnecessary’ red tape.

‘Cutting up red tape will deliver more poor-quality places’

Commenting on the prime minister’s plans to deregulate the planning system, Tom Fyans, policy and campaigns director at CPRE, said: “Deregulating planning and cutting up red tape simply won’t deliver better quality places. It’s already far too easy to build poor quality homes.

“Our research has shown that three quarters of large housing developments are mediocre or poor in terms of their design and should not have been granted planning permission. Transferring decision making power from local councils and communities and handing them to developers is the exact opposite of building back better.

“The best way to deliver the places that we need, at the pace we need them, is to make it easier for local councils to get local plans in place, and then to hold developers to those plans.

“One glimmer of hope in the prime minister’s words are those prioritising building on brownfield to release pressure on greenfield sites.

“But if we are to truly build back better, and ‘level up’ across the country, we need to make sure the voice of local communities are strengthened in shaping the homes and places that they will inherit.”

The Prime Minister also announced that work will begin to look at how land owned by the government can be managed more effectively.

Ahead of the Spending Review, a new, ambitious cross-government strategy will look at how public sector land can be managed and released so it can be put to better use. This would include home building, improving the environment, contributing to net-zero goals and injecting growth opportunities into communities across the country.

Boost housebuilding

These announcements come alongside a package of measures to support home building across England. These include:

  • A £12bn affordable homes programme that will support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next 8 years.
  • Included in the affordable homes programme will be a 1,500 unit pilot of ‘First Homes’: houses that will be sold to first time buyers at a 30% discount.
  • Funds from the £400m Brownfield Land Fund have today been allocated 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.
  • The Home Builders Fund to help smaller developers access finance for new housing developments will receive additional £450m boost. This is expected to support delivery of around 7,200 new homes.

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