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RIBA welcomes ‘modest’ Spring Statement housing boost

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The RIBA has welcomed the ‘modest’ housing boost outlined in the chancellor’s Spring Statement but expressed its deep concern over the expansion of permitted development rights

Amid continuing uncertainty over Brexit, chancellor Philip Hammond announced a raft of measures to increase housing supply, including a £3 billion Affordable Homes Guarantee to support delivery of about 30,000 affordable dwellings.

Commenting on the statement, RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: ‘The chancellor has outlined some modest but welcome changes in today’s budget. But against the threat of a no-deal Brexit they provide little reassurance to a country gripped by uncertainty.

‘Incremental improvements on housing will address some of the impacts that a decade of cuts have had on local authority capacity and could improve the delivery of genuinely affordable housing.’

However, Derbyshire said he was ‘deeply concerned’ over the government’s renewed commitment to implementing a ‘range of reforms’ on planning, including expanding permitted development rights (PDR).

In a statement, housing secretary James Brokenshire said the government would also take forward a permitted development right to extend upwards certain existing buildings in commercial and residential use. 

He added: ’We will continue to consider the design of a permitted development right to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.’

Derbyshire said: ‘I also support the announcement that recommendations from the Letwin Review [of build-out rates] will be accepted, leading I hope to greater recognition from housebuilders of the urgent need to raise design quality.

‘I am however deeply concerned that further deregulation of the planning system by extending permitted development is in sight. This will push more people into poor-quality housing and is completely unacceptable.’

Other announcements included £717 million to help ‘unlock’ up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and in Cheshire, and a new ‘Future Homes Standard’, outlawing fossil fuel-powered heating systems in all new houses by 2025.

Support for the Letwin Review – recommending a greater variety of housing types, designs and tenures to increase residential completion rates – also featured in the chancellor’s announcement.

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