The Times: Be bold and build higher, MPs tell housing minister

The government’s proposed planning reforms are “too weak to make a difference”, three former Tory ministers have said.

Nick Boles, John Penrose and Mark Prisk said that Britain was facing a “slow-motion crisis” that would leave a generation locked out of home ownership, and that the government’s response to the problem was inadequate.

Sajid Javid, the housing secretary, announced this week that the government would consult on changes making it easier for developers to add new floors to existing buildings. MPs criticised the scale of the plans.

“You are absolutely right that overhauling our slow, expensive, uncertain and conflict-ridden planning laws is the place to start,” they said in a letter to Mr Javid. “But given the size of our housing crisis, we’d like to encourage you to be even bolder.

“Unless these proposals allow for building up not out in all towns and cities, and without red tape, they will be too weak to make a difference on the scale that’s going to be needed.”

Mr Boles, Mr Prisk and Mr Penrose are former ministers for planning, housing and architecture respectively. They are urging Mr Javid to remove the need for permission when urban property owners want to build up to the height of the tallest building in the same block, or to a fifth storey, whichever is higher. Their proposals would encourage mansion blocks, terraces and mews rather than tower blocks, they said.

Mr Penrose, who is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on housing and planning, said: “We’ve simply got to build more homes, whether they’re to rent or to buy, so they’re cheap enough for everyone to afford. Housing is a huge, slow-motion crisis, so we’ve got to be bold. Otherwise a generation will stay locked out of the dream of home ownership and house prices will keep spiralling upwards.”

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