Housing and Planning Bill – an Update

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During October, the government made a number of announcements alongside the new Housing and Planning Bill – all aiming to achieve the government’s ambition of creating one million homes by 2020.  Some of the measures being put in place to achieve this goal will create very interesting opportunities for developers!

From temporary to permanent

The most notable difference is that a temporary permitted change of use from offices to residential is to be made permanent.  In addition, permitted development rights are proposed to be extended to allow for office buildings to be demolished and replaced by new residential developments, and for both launderettes and light industrial units to undergo a change of use to residential.  The detail of when such permitted development rights can be used has still to be published by the government and is no doubt eagerly awaited.

The planning reforms are also aimed at supporting those wanting to build their own home, by making councils responsible for allocating land to help small developers.

The changes were announced by Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis, who said: “Today’s measures will mean we can tap into the potential of underused buildings to offer new homes for first-time buyers and families long into the future, breathing new life into neighbourhoods and at the same time protecting our precious green belt.”

Permitted development rights

Here at Apex Planning Consultants, we are pretty excited by the opportunities these new changes will bring.  At the moment, the permitted development rights only allow for office space to be converted into residential, subject to Prior Approval. So of course, it is frequently the more modern office buildings that are developed, as they are comparatively easier and cheaper to convert.

This causes problems for businesses – as it creates a lack of Grade A office space available to businesses to buy or rent. However, allowing for sub-standard office buildings to be demolished and residential buildings created from scratch is theoretically a far more desirable outcome all round, which would release land that is otherwise occupied by vacant and unlettable/unsaleable buildings and allowing an active use that would enhance an area and provide for much needed housing.  So this development, along with the chance to convert light industry and launderette units, in principle, can be viewed as a really positive step, but as always, the devil will be in the detail, and Apex Planning Consultants will be monitoring this situation for its clients.

As we mentioned in a recent blog post, part of the Housing and Planning Bill reiterates the government’s requirement for local authorities to have their Local Plans adopted by 2017 – or the government will create their plans for them.  Furthermore, it states that councils can also bid for a share of a £10 million Starter Homes Fund to help them prepare brownfield sites that otherwise would not be used for starter homes.

Brownfield register

The government has recently issued the latest information relating to the ‘Brownfield register’ – we are reserving judgement, but our initial concern about this is that it doesn’t necessarily make for good planning, as it unclear how it allows for the ‘testing’ of the sites to establish their suitability.  For example, what impact will the development have on the local area; how has it been adjudged to be compatible with adjacent uses; what are the highway implications; are the services and utilities in the area sufficient to accommodate the increased population in a given location?

If you would like to discuss your own project with us, or discuss a plan about the latest government initiatives, or just find out more about what we do, please drop us a line at info@apexplanning.co.uk.