Theresa May targets developers and planning rules in housing speech
The Prime Minister has promised that she will “not rule out any options” in shaping up the UK’s housing market, with proposed measures aimed at cracking down on land-hogging developers, enabling more upwards building in town centres and creating more affordable homes.
In east London yesterday, Theresa May outlined the government’s plans to tackle the country’s housing market. The measures set forth include setting a 10% minimum of affordable homes on major building sites; builders becoming more open about affordable housing commitments at the planning stage; councils revealing their area’s housing needs using a new nationwide standard; infrastructure to be considered at pre-planning stage; and protection of ancient woodland and aged trees.
These were the key points among 80 proposals that will be implemented after an overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framwork, while later this year a review will give homeowners the automatic right to extend their homes upwards in order to create more space, as well as raising restrictions on building houses on agricultural land.
Addressing the growing divisions between those with wealthy parents who can afford to buy, and those from poorer backgrounds who may never get onto the property ladder, May said:
“The result is a vicious circle from which most people can only escape with help from the bank of mum and dad.”
“Talking to voters during last year’s election campaign, it was clear that many people, particularly younger people, are angry about this. Angry that, regardless of how hard they work, they won’t be able to buy a place of their own. Angry when they’re forced to hand more and more of their wages to a landlord to whom their home is simply a business asset. They’re right to be angry.”
News emerged recently that there were currently 423,000 homes across the country that had been granted planning permission but were yet to be built, and May wants to give councils more powers to tackle this issue to prevent developers from “land hoarding”.
She said: “I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise. I expect developers to do their duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs.”
The views were echoed by Local Government Association chair Lord Porter, who said: “No-one can live in a planning permission.”
“Developers need to get on with building affordable homes with the needed infrastructure and councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled.”
Shops into homes
Retail units and high street shops that have been closed down could also be more easily converted into homes, according to the Prime Minister. Although May wants to continue protecting the country’s high streets, she acknowledged that people’s shopping habits are changing and more retail business than ever is done online – and with shops sitting unoccupied, regenerating them and turning them into homes could provide big benefits to some areas.
May said: “One of the elements of the new planning rules we are setting out is to make it easier for shops to be turned into housing, if that’s appropriate, but also for development above retail units to take place.
“Often, there’s a very good argument for having homes being developed in the centre of a town, accessible to shops, accessible to transport infrastructure as well.”
Steven Way, a chartered building surveyor at Collier Stevens, believes the government needs to cast the net wider in order to tackle the biggest issues.
“Truly alternative options such as self-build and community build projects need to be given greater exposure vis-à-vis other vital areas of debate including leasehold vs freehold; security of tenure and the importance of build-to-rent if the pressure currently placed on existing housing supply is to be eased,” he said.
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