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Planning Reforms Could Increase Low-Quality Housing, Lords Committee Warns

Planning reforms raise concern
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The new planning reforms in England could lead to increased construction of low-quality housing, according to a new report from the Lords Secondary Legislation Committee.

The government’s sweeping planning reforms came into effect at the end of August, which extended Permitted Development rights so homeowners could extend by up to two storeys, and pledged to help more people self build their own home. 

The reforms also make it easier to demolish certain vacant buildings to replace them with new homes, a move which has faced strong criticism and a legal challenge

The Lords Secondary Legislation Committee has now published a report which raises concerns about the changes to planning legislation. 

The report acknowledges that the changes are intended to speed up the delivery of homes, and encourage economic growth, but the committee has raised concerns over the impact the reforms could have on communities. 

Lord German, Member of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, said: “These changes could result in low-quality housing and reduce the ability of local authorities to shape the character of their high streets.

“We are in no doubt that the House will wish to press the minister for an assurance that the concerns raised have been considered and that safeguards are in place to ensure that they are fully met.”

Planning Reforms Won’t Speed up Housing Delivery

The charity Shelter has refuted the suggestion that the planning reforms will speed up the planning process, and said they will fail to tackle the shortage of affordable homes. 

Nearly 40% of homes granted planning permission go unbuilt, Shelter reports, with more than 380,000 homes awarded planning approval between 2011 and 2019 yet to be built.

“The idea that the planning system is stopping homes being built is a myth,” said Shelter chief executive Polly Neale.

“Across the country hundreds of thousands of ‘phantom homes’ sit on sites with planning permission fully approved. Rubber stamps are no replacement for direct investment in high-quality housing.”

Reforms Should Have Been Debated

Independent campaigning group Rights: Community: Action (RCA) has also criticised the reforms, and specifically criticised the government for the timing of the reforms, which means they have not faced parliament scrutiny. 

The measures were announced on the last day that parliament sat before summer recess, and actioned the day before parliament reconvened on 1 September. 

The Lords Committee report also stated that, in the context of the government’s plans to speed up the planning system, it would have been more appropriate to enable Parliament to scrutinise the changes more fully

“Given the significance of these changes, we have also queried whether they should have been implemented through primary rather than secondary legislation and therefore afforded the much more thorough scrutiny to which bills are subject.”