New Radical Planning Reforms a Boost to No.10’s ‘Project Build, Build, Build’

Will new U.K. planning reform bring lasting change to a protracted process?

Back in June this year, when Boris Johnson announced the most radical planning reform to the UK’s system since World War II, it sent ripples of optimism throughout the construction industry.

And not a moment too soon, considering the country’s housing crisis has been dragging down the economy for more than a decade.

However, among economists it’s a known fact that the best way to breathe new life into a flagging economy is by doing just what the PM suggests and stimulating growth in the construction industry.

Wider freedom for Britain's construction sector

The reasons are manifold. Not only does it provide urgently needed housing for buyers and renters from all backgrounds, but it also creates thousands of jobs for both skilled and non-skilled workers.

The intent behind the new regulations is to give greater freedom for buildings and land in UK town centres to change use without planning permission. This will open the doors to creating new homes by regenerating vacant and redundant buildings, which is a huge step forward for British builders.

The changes include:

  • More types of commercial premises will be allowed to be repurposed through reform of the Use Classes Order. For example, an unused shop could be permanently used as a café or office without requiring planning applications and local authority approvals.
  • More commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use, without the need of 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.
  • A fast track approval process is to be introduced to allow property owners to build additional space above their properties.
Planning reform

Making brownfield development easier

These changes, which came into effect in 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.

Delivering affordable housing

The planning reforms are set to work 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 which will remain in perpetuity, keeping them affordable for generations of families to own.

The Home Building Fund to help smaller developers access finance for new housing developments will also receive additional £450m boost as part of the Government’s strategy. This is expected to support delivery of around 7,200 new homes.

What this means for UK construction

Generally speaking, the PM’s ambition has been welcomed by the construction sector, but it needs to quickly translate into tangible action on the ground. The primary challenge we’re facing as an industry is less about “build, build, build” and more about “deliver, deliver, deliver”.

Modern Method Construction is delighted to see that, once again, infrastructure and construction is set to become a catalyst for a wider economic recovery and we are ready to play our part. We are still powering ahead with our disruptive approach to housebuilding and the recent planning reforms pave the way for us to implement our strategy with greater ease.

Greater developer control

The planning process has become a necessary evil for many developers, and one that can have huge potential to damage a project’s bottom line. This is mainly because it’s one aspect of the project a developer has no control over until they have fully-approved planning consents in their hands.

Waiting for inspectors to review works in progress for possible planning infringements is not only time-consuming for councils but disruptive to developers on tight schedules. Anything interfering with a development timeline has an inevitable financial implication and considering the current economic climate, it’s the last thing the industry needs.

Welcoming the new regulations

On balance, MMC welcomes the new regulations which make it easier for us to deliver our unique brand of residential housing projects by removing unnecessary red-tape. If you would like more information about our technology-led approach to construction and how we are disrupting the industry, please call or complete the contact form.

Roxanne James
21st Nov 2020

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