Property industry reacts to landmark planning reforms

by: Mary-Anne Bowring/Development Finance Today

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Transform the way the country builds.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured above) has today (6th August) set out plans to overhaul the country’s outdated planning system and transform the way the country builds. Proposals have been put forward in the white paper, Planning for the future, which was published today. The “most significant reforms to housing policy in decades” aims to deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need.

The landmark changes are set to improve a system that has long been criticised for being too sluggish in providing housing for families, key workers and young people, and too ineffectual in obligating developers to properly fund the infrastructure — such as schools, roads and GP surgeries — to support them. The current system has shown itself to be unfavourable to small businesses, with the proportion of new homebuilding they lead on dropping drastically from 40% 30 years ago to just 12% today. The changes are expected to be a major boost to SME builders currently cut off by the planning process.

“Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need; it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground,” said Jenrick. “These once-in-a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country. “We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. “Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.

“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth. “Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country.” Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley, stated: “While a lot will depend on the local plans and design codes that are adopted, the zonal based system — earmarking land for growth, renewal or protection — will help with the reshaping of town and city centres across the country, which will need repurposing post-pandemic as we adapt to new ways of working, living and shopping.

“One disappointing element to the government’s planning white paper is the continued focus on first-time buyers, with nothing on how to boost the supply of rental housing, despite private renters being the fastest growing part of the housing market. “Having already abolished stamp duty for most first-time buyers and introduced a stamp duty holiday generally, the government should look to scrap the additional levy on BTL investors, who still provide the mainstay of private rented accommodation. “The government should also be encouraging institutional investors such as pension funds and insurers, who previously would have invested in offices and shopping centres, to fund the creation of purpose-built rental housing.”



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