Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a series of reforms to improve homebuilding in England, and the measures could positively impact self builders, renovators, extenders and aspiring homeowners.

The updates in the government’s Planning for the Future document include:

  • New Permitted Development (PD) rights will be introduced this summer for building upwards on existing buildings. 
  • A pledged to support community and self build housing
  • Speeding up the planning permission system
  • A reaffirmed commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050
  • Investing £400m to use brownfield land productively
  • Reviewing the government’s policy for building in areas at flood risk

Permitted Development Changes

Mr Jenrick has announced new PD rights for building upwards on existing buildings, including extending residential blocks, by up to two storeys. These will be announced in the summer, it has been confirmed.

The announcement elaborates on the government’s pledge last year to waive planning permission on two-storey extensions, but its reception among industry experts is mixed.

On the one hand, this could provide homeowners with greater leeway to extend their homes, and homeowners would no longer be required to seek approval from neighbours. However, there is concern that this could negatively impact communities, leading to a rise in poorly-designed buildings, with no formal route for neighbours to object.

Helen Hayes, Labour Member of Parliament for Dulwich & West Norwood, said: “Expansion of permitted development rights is an unmitigated disaster for many communities – yet instead of stopping this harmful policy, govt is proposing to extend PDR under banner of ‘planning freedoms’ to allow upwards extension and demolition without full planning permission.”

There will also be a consultation on the detail of a new PD right which will allow vacant commercial buildings, industrial buildings and residential blocks to be demolished, and replaced with new residential units which meet natural light standards. 

Focusing on Self Build

In a very welcome move for the self build sector, Mr Jenrick also pledged to support community and self build housing. 

The self build industry has been awaiting an update to the Conservative Party’s General Election manifesto, which promised to help first-time self builders access the Help to Buy scheme using 5% deposit mortgages, and while there was no elaboration on this pledge, it is encouraging that removing barriers facing self build is being addressed.

“We will support those who want to build their own homes to find plots of land and provide help to parish councils and neighbourhood forums who wish to build a small number of homes to allow their communities to grow organically, providing homes for the next generation and those wishing to downsize,” the report says. 

Speeding up the Planning System

As part of its outline to speed up the planning system – which has faced criticism for the government will deliver automatic rebates where planning applications are successful at appeal. This means that where applications are refused, applications will be entitled to an automatic rebate of the planning application fee, subject to a successful appeal. 

This will promote proper consideration of applications by planning committees, the government says. 

There will also be a Planning White Paper released in the spring which will propose measures to accelerate planning, and utilise new technologies to modernise the system.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The current planning system is a major barrier for small house builders, so today’s announcement that it will be brought into the 21st century through digitisation and simplification is a victory for common sense.”

The government will also work with local authorities, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) homebuilders, the construction industry and others this summer, to shape a long-term reform of the planning system and housing market. 

Net Zero Emissions

The government has reaffirmed its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and plans to deliver a revolution in green housing.

It will introduce a Future Homes Standard from 2025, which will require up to 80% lower carbon emissions for all new homes. This, the report says, will help to bring an environmental revolution to homebuilding, tackling climate change while keeping household bills low.

Brownfield Investment

In order to build more homes for local people, the government has revealed it will invest £400m to use brownfield sites productively.

It also confirmed that ministers will work with local authorities to regenerate brownfield land and deliver the homes communities need on land which is already developed.

Flood Risk Defences

With inclement weather affecting many homes this year, the government has acted to shore up its flood risk strategy.

It will review its policy for building in areas at risk of flooding, and seek to ensure that communities across the country are aware that future development is flood proof.

In Wednesday’s Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced a £5.2bn investment in additional flood defences across the country.

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