Will the new planning system proposals help the housing shortage crisis?

24 July 2023

The government has announced new planning rules to help it meet its advisory housebuilding targets, in its overarching long-term plan for housing.

The government has shared proposals in its long-term plan for housing to change planning permission in cities. The proposals will allow empty retail premises, takeaways, and betting shops to be converted into homes, as well as relaxing rules around barn conversions and repurposing agricultural buildings and warehouses. A review will similarly take place into extending permitted development rights to help with extending homes, converting lofts, and renovating new buildings.

These changes to permitted development rights all aim to help the government reach its target to build over 1 million new homes during the course of this parliament, confirmed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. When questioned, Housing Secretary Michael Gove also commented that the government aims to meet its 300,000 housing target “as soon as we possibly can”.

A realistic target?

However, a recent House of Commons Committee report highlighted the difficulties that the government's facing in making this a reality.

The primary concern around meeting this target that the House of Commons Committee shares is that it is purely "advisory" - an issue highlighted in Goodlord's Renting Done Right report.

The government previously proposed plans to reform the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to encourage more homes to be built. However, the report found that these proposals may have "the opposite effect", as the suggested changes to local planning systems could make building homes harder to achieve.

Updates to the framework are expected "later in the year".

The reaction to new planning rules

On the conversion of shops and other premises, the Local Government Association has shared its thoughts. “There is no doubt that we need more homes as well as to reinvigorate our high streets and town centres. However, premises such as offices, barns, and shops are not always suitable for housing."

The National Housing Federation has also said that Gove's proposals are "a positive start" but that they're "nowhere near the scale or ambition that is needed".

Goodlord's Director of Insurance, Oli Sherlock, feels the same. "If we want to ease the pressure on the rental sector, we desperately need more homes to be built. However, we need targets and pledges to translate into bricks and mortar.

"We've neglected our housing market for far too long - now is the time for pragmatic action, not more talk."

Alongside these new planning permission proposals, the government has also confirmed plans to create a new urban quarter in Cambridge, a Planning Skills Delivery Fund, and a "super-squad" team of planners and other experts to speed up housing developments. 

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