United Kingdom

What the Government's housing revolution might mean for you

The Government wants to rip up planning red tape to build hundreds of thousands of new homes to get young people on the property ladder.

But already there are concerns about a sprawl of unlovely, ill-thought-out developments across England.

So what do the plans for build, build, build mean for you?

Building boom: The government wants to build hundreds of thousands of new homes to get young people on the property ladder

When can these new homes be built?

Nothing can happen straight away. This is a consultation, not a change in the law — yet. 

But you should get ready to make your voice heard if it seems likely the proposals will become law and you feel your neighbourhood could be blighted.

The Government is proposing that your local authority place land into three categories: growth, renewal or protection. 

In growth zones, the 'substantial' development of housing, hospitals, offices and shops would be automatically allowed. You would not be consulted if a developer wanted to put up new homes.

I'm not Nimby, but I still want my say

You should still be able to voice your opinion if a developer wants to build in a renewal area, where a 'permission on principle' approach would apply, under which checks would have to be made.

Protected areas would include the Green Belt and areas of outstanding natural beauty and rich heritage.

Anyone with a view over fields and hills should, in theory, feel reassured. But there are fears that some owners of such land could ignore the rules, ruining the view and threatening wildlife. It's not clear what safeguards will be in place.

Blueprint: The design of new homes may be replicated across the country in the race to build

Can local authorities block developments?

If the development is in a growth area, the local authority won't have the power to block the scheme.

But the authority will be able to decide which zones will become growth areas in its local plan. 

This is a key document that will set out the framework for what can be built where. At present, only about 50 per cent of local authorities have a plan. 

But under the new system, they are going to become even more important. Ask at your town hall if your local authority has a plan and keep a close eye on it.

Does this mean more shoddy new builds?

Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, has pledged that the reforms will prioritise 'quality and design', with a generation of new energy-efficient homes that fit their surroundings and stand the test of time. 

He envisages a return to the pattern books used in the 18th and 19th century. These guides detailed designs that housebuilders could replicate at reasonable cost.

Pattern books were used to build the terraces of Bath, the white-stucco streets of Belgravia, and Bournville, the village created by the Cadbury family for workers. 

Who is going to pay for the roads and schools?

A levy charged on developments should provide money for roads, schools, shops and GP surgeries. This should prevent new schemes from putting pressure on existing services.

Much has been made over the pledge that every new street should be 'tree-lined'. This would be highly agreeable but expensive in the long-term, as councils may struggle to keep these maintained.

Shouldn't we turn offices into homes?

Turning disused commercial premises into homes seems to make sense and, under the Government's permitted development rights (PDR), offices can be converted into housing without permission.

Empty shops will also be able to be converted to revive ailing High Streets.

But a Government report out this week revealed that only 22 per cent of the flats created this way met official space standards. 

Some flats are as tiny as 16 m sq (about the size of a main bedroom in a typical new build home) and some have no windows. Little wonder they have been dubbed 'instant slums'.

What's the reason for the shake-up?

Jenrick believes 'sluggish' planning rules are standing in the way of expanding homeownership, with too many young people stuck in the rental trap.

Boosting construction would address such housing inequality, attracting younger voters to the Conservatives, and give a much needed fillip to the pandemic-ravaged economy.

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