Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced his aim to reform the planning process, but what will change and how this might benefit landlords is yet to be seen.
Few would disagree that seeking planning permission is a complicated and changing the rules is long overdue.
For developers, homeowners, landlords and investors alike, winning planning permission is one of the most difficult and expensive challenges they face.
As the government seeks to build more homes and inject new life into the property market following the Covid-19 pandemic, his call for an overhaul is long overdue.
The first step is an open consultation due to close on October 25, 2020.
“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth. Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country,” said Jenrick.
He aims to push through reforms that:
- Streamline and smooth the planning process
- Reduce red tape that can bog down house building
- Encourage developers to build more homes faster
- Protect green spaces for generations to come.
- Offer financial incentives to first-time buyers and key workers
- 1 Landlords already boosted by reforms
- 2 Help for first-time buyers
- 3 Positive feedback
- 4 Plans for developers and small builders
- 5 Hopes for high streets
- 6 Planning revolution FAQ
- 6.1 When can we expect to see changes made to the planning system?
- 6.2 Do these changes apply to all the UK?
- 6.3 How do the reforms seek to tackle environmental objectives?
- 6.4 How many new homes are needed in England?
- 6.5 What does the Planning for the Future Consultation seek to achieve?
- 6.6 How can I stay up to date with what changes are being made?
- 6.7 Where can I find more details about exactly what changes are proposed?
Landlords already boosted by reforms
If the promised changes arrive, they will release the iron grip local authorities have on planning and could signal the most significant reform to housing policy in decades.
But that depends on how much the final proposals are watered down.
Coronavirus has badly hit housebuilding and left many developments short of funds and in tatters.
While many construction businesses operated as usual throughout lockdown, a massive drop in consumer spending, fears of recession and changes to working conditions to respect safe distancing have been felt across the board.
The private rented sector remains at the heart of UK infrastructure, and the changes announced last month to lift the Stamp Duty thresholds and allow two-storey extensions to homes are seen as the start of reforms that indirectly help landlords.
Help for first-time buyers
Help for first-time buyers remain one of the priority areas, with continuing shortages of quality housing in less affluent regions being a long-running issue impacting low-income households and vulnerable sections of our society.
The changes have been welcomed by Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, who said:
“Changes to the planning system will help ramp up the availability of homes in places where people need them most. These reforms will allow house builders to get to work, supporting supply chains, and more flexible, local labour markets around the country.”
“Delivering high-quality, safe and environmentally friendly new homes is critical for meeting our climate targets while accelerating regional growth and tackling inequality. Affordability of future housing supply must remain at the forefront of these efforts.”
It isn’t just house builders and the construction sector that will benefit from streamlining the planning process. Homebuyers are another critical target:
- A First Homes scheme will deliver new-build properties at 30% discounts
- Residents, first-time buyers and key workers can claim the discount
- Discounts will stay locked into property prices for good even if the home is sold on
The jury’s out on how this policy will impact landlords who traditionally compete with first-time buyers in the market
The housebuilding industry has reacted positively to the proposals, which recognise the importance and value of affordable housing.
James Thomson, CEO of Gleeson Homes, said: “We strongly support the reform of our historic planning system, to bring it up to speed and ensure it is fit for purpose for the modern-day. In particular, we welcome initiatives to make it more transparent, speed up planning where appropriate and has a presumption towards development rather than against. The renewed commitment to building 300,000 new homes a year is an important goal and will be aided by these new initiatives.”
First Homes is only part of the new planning package which includes measures to boost employment, regenerate town centres and breathe new life into commercial neighbourhoods.
Jenrick wants to see a more modern approach to planning, including
- Modernising the planning process
- Improving housing standards
- Supporting more sustainable homes
- Reforming how developers operate
- Recognising the need for suitable land for new developments
- Developing new management policies and protocols.
Landlords can view the full proposals, contribute to the consultation and request further information.
Plans for developers and small builders
Developers are at the centre of the proposals as the sector most likely to benefit from any new planning rules. Jenrick wants a more straightforward planning process, supported housing developments, and a more efficient way of working in partnership with local authorities.
Smaller developers are often disadvantaged by the current system and manage only 12% of new builds, compared with 40% share 30 years ago. A less complicated system with lower costs and less red tape seeks to level the playing field for them.
In the financial crash of 2007-09, around a third of developers were lost and the result is Britain builds fewer new homes than any other European country.
Planning is targeted as the most significant barrier to building, with 38% of developers citing this as their biggest challenge.
Hopes for high streets
The consultation also addresses the many failed attempts to incentive investment to regenerate England’s high streets.
Empty shops, a lack of customers and declining retail businesses battered by online shopping continue to make their presence felt, with successive closures and job losses announced almost daily.
The hope is by changing the planning framework, local authorities will also benefit.
Vacant properties will be fast-tracked for planning, allowing private landlords to take on empty commercial premises for conversion into housing.
Helen Evans, chief executive of Network Homes, said: “The country needs many more affordable homes, and the planning system makes an important contribution towards that. I strongly welcome the intention of government’s proposed reforms to increase transparency and certainty to help increase the delivery of affordable homes.”
Planning revolution FAQ
When can we expect to see changes made to the planning system?
We can’t yet be sure; the consultation process is due to close on October 29, 2020. Some new measures could be introduced quickly, whereas others make take several months or even years to be implemented.
With such changes being widespread, local councils and housing authorities will need a certain period to adjust their working practises and systems, so it may be another year or so before we see the most significant reforms.
Do these changes apply to all the UK?
No. The consultation documents address the planning system in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own planning processes.
But the system does align in each country, so it is possible that changes will be made elsewhere to reflect reforms made to the English planning system, if successful and dependant on the outcomes of the consultation.
How do the reforms seek to tackle environmental objectives?
Some of the key aims are around addressing climate change and promoting sustainable housing.
Green spaces are to be better protected, with brownfield land ring-fenced for new construction projects, and proposals for all new streets required to incorporate trees into their design.
How many new homes are needed in England?
Around 300,000 new homes are needed each year. The proposed changes include working with councils to rationalise targets, ring-fence development land, expedite the planning process and ultimately make it easier and more affordable for these properties to be built.
What does the Planning for the Future Consultation seek to achieve?
Consultations are a process whereby interested parties or stakeholders are invited to contribute, send feedback, or comment on proposed plans.
This is an open consultation, which means that anybody can get involved.
The Ministry of Housing says, “We are keen to hear from a wide range of interested parties from across the public and private sectors, as well as from the general public.”
How can I stay up to date with what changes are being made?
If you would like to contribute to the consultation process, you can do so through the Planning for the Future survey page. When the consultation period closes, the results and outcomes will be published.
You can also contact the consultation team via email at mailto:email@example.com
Where can I find more details about exactly what changes are proposed?
The public consultation documents are all available online.
The consultation document asks respondents to answer 26 questions, as well as providing some personal details.