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UK planning changes and the impact on housebuilding

Since summer 2020, there have been some huge reforms to the UK planning system,

in particular, there have been some major changes to permitted development rights. Some of these reforms will boost the housebuilding sector and create more housing in the years to come. However, there are some concerns about recent changes.

In the past few years, there have been quite a few changes to permitted development rights. Back in 2013, the government brought in permitted development rights where developers could turn office buildings into housing without formal planning permission. They instead need to contact the local authority of its plans and gain prior approval.

Now, the government has announced new planning rules for town centres.

From 1st August 2021, a new permitted development right will come into effect for buildings in town centres. This will allow a change of use from the class E use for commercial, business and service buildings to housing.

You can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called "permitted development rights".

They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.

In some areas of the country, known generally as 'designated areas', permitted development rights are more restricted. For example, if you live in:

  • a Conservation Area

  • a National Park

  • an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

  • a World Heritage Site or

  • the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads.

You will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work that do not need an application in other areas. There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.

Last year, the government also made it easier for developers and individuals to build upwards. This allowed “in principle” agreements for upwards extensions for two additional storeys on detached flat blocks. However, there are emerging concerns that rooftops are now being marketed for greatly inflated sums making acquisition and development financially unviable.

This week, the Queen delivered her speech and set out the government's legislative agenda in which the current planning system, barely touched since 1947, has been simplified to ensure that homes and infrastructure can be delivered more quickly across England. However, despite the bill being extended to the whole of the UK, the majority of changes will only apply to England.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick proposed reforms that mean land designated for new homes, hospitals, and schools will get automatic permission to be developed as they will fall under the "for growth" category. Under the new rules, it would become more difficult for existing homeowners to block new housing schemes.

These new planning reforms will likely lead to higher housebuilding outputs. Additionally, these changes could help the government reach its target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.


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