The consultation will end on 26th March

Gove urges councils to prioritise brownfield development

The government has instructed that every council in England is to prioritise brownfield developments under a major shake-up to planning rules.

The consultation on the raft of proposals launched today (13th February) will end on 26th March.

English councils have been ordered to be less bureaucratic and demonstrate more flexibility in applying policies that halt development on brownfield land.

In addition, planning authorities in England’s 20  largest cities that are failing to hit their locally agreed housebuilding targets will also need to follow a ‘brownfield presumption’ if housing delivery tests fall below 95%.

The government has also  today brought legislation to parliament to extend permitted development rights, to allow the conversion of commercial buildings to residential units.

Housing secretary Michael Gove commented: “Our new brownfield presumption will tackle under delivery in our key towns and cities, where new homes are most needed to support jobs and drive growth.”

Despite the government’s plans to speed up brownfield planning processes, some industry professionals remain sceptical.

Nick Sanderson, CEO at the Audley Group, commented: “Removing blocks in the planning system is a step in the right direction.

“But brownfield sites are only one of the possible options to give UK families the homes they need; the focus shouldn't simply be on building more homes, It’s about building the right types of homes.

“The government must look at how the property market functions as a whole, instead of continuing its blinkered focus on first-time buyers and young families — it has to look at increasing the supply of age-specific housing.

“This would encourage older homeowners to move out of large family homes, freeing up supply and creating movement up and down the ladder — the benefits of this are numerous.

“Any new development, particularly city centre regeneration projects, should include provision for age-specific housing.”

Jeremy Leaf, estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, added: “There are many aspects of these proposals which are welcome, such as concentration on increasing supply and recognition of the importance of addressing affordable housing shortages, particularly on brownfield land.

“However, sadly we have heard much of it before without seeing much difference on the ground.

“This consultation needs a strict timetable for delivery and consequences or failure on the part of local authorities who do not meet realistic planning and infrastructure targets. It requires not just speeding up planning but also the appeal process.

“In our work with developers and builders, we frequently find the lack of appreciation of the disconnect between time and money by local authorities ie that faiurel to bring forward schemes in a timely manner may result in them being shelved altogether as markets, costs, finance offers, and circumstances change.

“Local people want to know what impact these measures will have in their areas before and after, otherwise they will probably go the way of past attempts at dealing with this increasingly serious housing crisis.”

However, Robbie Blackhurst, founder of Black Capital Group, felt the government’s announcement has not come a moment too soon:

“The planning system has failed to keep pace with housing demand and today’s announcement by the government is long overdue.

“The cost of home loans and rising interest rates have created a bottleneck in new housing development up and down the country and building on brownfield is the only way to rectify the situation quickly.

“A failure to do so will continue to hamstring the many industries that make-up the built environment, damaging the potential of one of the UK’s most essential industries and risking the jobs of so many who work within it."

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