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Politics Home: Allowing developers to build 'Up Not Out' could help solve the housing crisis

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The way to solve the housing crisis is to reduce planning restrictions on urban property owners, allowing them to build up to the level of other buildings in the same block, argues John Penrose MP.

Housing, whether it’s rent or mortgage payments, is probably the biggest single monthly bill that most of us face. And, because we haven’t built enough new houses for decades, no matter who’s in Government, the costs have been getting steeper and steeper.

The result is less living space, longer commutes, less cash left over for other things each month and, overall, a lower quality of life for all of us.

So we need to increase the number of new homes that are built, and I have a way for Ministers to do it…

For years, I’ve been campaigning to make it easier for urban property owners to build up to the level of other buildings in the same block without needing planning permission and at last, with Sajid Javid at the helm in the Department for Communities and Local Government, we might just make some progress.

His department is about to publish the long awaited Housing White Paper and I’ve been campaigning for it to include a provision to change planning laws to make it easier to build ‘Up Not Out’ in urban areas. This will attract new investment, helping to regenerate town centres and bringing fresh life to High Streets by allowing owners to build up to the level of other buildings in the same block (or the height of nearby trees if that’s taller) without needing planning permission.

Homes would become more affordable for everybody, we would break the stranglehold of large housebuilding firms on the number of new homes that are built, and, by releasing lots of over-looked town and city-centre building sites, it will reduce urban sprawl by cutting the pressure from builders to concrete over green fields and green belts at the edge of towns and villages across the country too.

I held my first debate in Parliament about this in February 2013 and I’m very excited that we have a chance – 4 years on – to make this idea a reality. In the meetings I’ve had in the last few weeks with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, and the Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, I’m reassured that the Government is seriously considering axing these outdated planning restrictions.

Cheaper homes are one of the most important ways of raising living standards for everyone and improving economic productivity and I’m looking forward to hearing what updates the Minister has when we debate this on 8th February.

This change will create vast amounts of extra building space, protect the environment and make houses cheaper – what’s not to like?

John Penrose is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Weston-Super-Mare

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