Former ministers have hit out at the government’s “weak” planning forms, saying the measures are not bold enough to end the UK’s housing crisis.
A year ago today, the government produced its housing white paper, which promised to “fix our broken housing market”. However, it stopped short of the radical planning changes that would allow for more rapid housebuilding.
More recently, the government has said it will make it easier for homeowners to build upwards on their properties. Tory MPs John Penrose, Nick Boles, and Mark Prisk, former ministers for architecture, planning and housing respectively, slammed the proposed reforms, saying they do not go far enough.
In a letter to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the MPs said: “As your department’s housing white paper says, the only way to make homes more affordable is to build a lot more of them.
“We haven’t built enough homes for decades and the lack of supply has caused soaring prices and created one of the biggest barriers to social progress in our country today. There is no time to waste, otherwise house prices will continue to spiral and we will lock a generation out of the dream of home ownership.”
They said permitted development rights should be extended, so planning permission is not required for property owners in cities looking to build up to the height of the tallest building in the same block; Javid’s reform would limit height additions to two stories.
“Local authorities could issue local building codes to ensure that designs complied with particular local architectural styles, or they could insist that they only added new dwellings rather than extending existing ones,” they said.
“Local planners and planning inspectors would be able to take account of the newly-created sites in their assessment of 5 year housing supply.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the government needed to be “more creative” and that its most recent proposal made more effective use of space.
“Homeowners already have permitted development rights so they can extend their homes outwards and also upwards, using the loft space,” the spokesperson said.
“This proposal goes further strengthening policy to make building upwards easier while ensuring that the character of residential neighbourhoods can be protected”.
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to take “personal charge” of housing, but she is opposed to building on greenbelt land.
Javid has been appealing to fellow cabinet members on housing, arguing that drastic change is needed to get Britain building. Ahead of the Autumn Budget, he suggested that the government could take advantage of record-low interest rates to borrow for housebuilding. However, his idea was rebuffed by chancellor Philip Hammond, who wants to stick to his fiscal targets.