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More homes: Osborne tears up planning rules for brownfield land


Chancellor George Osborne is to announce plans to sweep aside planning laws and allow new homes to be built on most brownfield land without permission

The dramatic move, which is expected to be confirmed in a speech in Birmingham later today (10 July), will see automatic permission granted on ‘suitable’ brownfield land across the country as well as further relaxing of laws in London to allow extra storeys to be added to homes without consent.

Major infrastructure projects which include ‘elements of housing’ will also be pushed through faster and could potentially force thousands of homes on areas of the country. Councils which do not process applications quickly enough could also face sanctions.

In London the Chancellor would allow developers to by-pass the normal approval system and build upwards extensions, up to the same height as neighbouring properties.

Ahead of the full announcement, Osborne said: ‘Britain has been incapable of building enough homes. The reforms we made to the planning system in the last parliament have started to improve the situation: planning permissions and housing starts are at a seven-year high.

‘But we need to go further and I am not prepared to stand by when people who want to get on the housing ladder can’t do so.

‘We’ll keep on protecting the green belt, but these latest planning reforms are a vital part of a comprehensive plan to confront the challenge of our lifetime and raise productivity and living standards.’

The new planning laws, which will have to be rubberstamped by MPs in Parliament, are expected to be opposed by local councils and many grass-roots Conservative supporters.


Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation
‘The raft of planning announcements today really hit the nail on the head for a number of planning issues. We are particularly pleased to see a commitment to bring forward brownfield land for redevelopemnt and also the focus on Local Plans, as the absence of such is a real block to local growth.

These planning announcements really hit the nail on the head

‘In order for these changes to make a difference, however, we strongly urge government to begin a dialogue with both the public and private sectors on how to address the severe shortage of funds which is afflicting local planning departments. The private sector will need to play a part in helping to address this funds shortage, and this needs to be explored fully if we want these new measures to work. We would also have liked to have seen some commitment to growing the purpose-built rental sector, which has an important part to play in solving the housing crisis and creating a balanced housing market.

‘We warmly welcome the government’s recognition of how a functioning and efficient planning system can contribute to the UK’s growth by creating not just new homes, but also the infrastructure that supports great places.’


Readers' comments (6)

  • Localism abandoned -- official!

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  • If planning permission was reduced to encourage increased building on brown sites and relaxed further in domestic alteration could there not be some kind of simultaneous protection of the role of Architect as well as title. So that we at least could be reassured that the increased building had some element of accountability and offered at least a hoped for level of consideration to neighbours, context etc.

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  • The government's finance minister seems to be morphing into Minister of Social Engineering - as well as Minister for Silly Bridges. Perhaps he'd like to be Minister for Everything?

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  • Ken Frampton said in a lecture some years ago that he thought that around 10 percent of the built environment involved an architect. I suspect it's less, to our national shame. Architecture should be part of the core curriculum at GCSE level so that we educate generations who appreciate the criteria and value of good design and understand sustainable environments. Are we really so third-world in terms of our popular ignorance of the merits of good design?

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  • More smoke and mirrors. There will be a process requiring the LPA to confirm the suitability of the land, which will require just as much paperwork as a planning application, but make eveything a little less clear and accountable.

    Yet again, nothing about protecting or promoting the types of housing required by many of those currently occupying larger family homes, i.e. smaller homes like bungalows into which they can downsize, and smaller starter homes. Nearly all the homes built or extended under these relaxations will only be suitable for larger families. Relaxing the rules for enlarging existing homes actually reduces the stocks of the homes that are most required.

    Given the location of many new govt. MPs, I can't see this going through frankly, or not without more careful safeguarding.

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  • On face value this sounds like a positive step forward although of course the details of the proposal need to be studied. However it will be interesting to see how the relaxation of planning constraints will be policed in terms of what is actually delivered. It would be hard to find someone that would argue against encouraging the development of brownfield sites, and the reduction of council determination periods will be welcomed by most, but how to ensure that high-quality well-designed developments that have a positive contribution to the community is another matter. It should be borne in mind that one of the issues facing the planning departments is that they do not have enough resources to deal with the large volume of applications and just proposing a fine may not provide the solution. (Shahriar Nasser - Belsize Architects)

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