Housing and Planning news from the 2019 Conservative Party Conference

15th October, 2019 by Acorus

In January 2019, fifteen built environment organisations, including the RTPI, wrote an open letter to government arguing that both housing quality and affordability were being undermined by planning deregulation rules. However the target of building 300,000 homes a year is still not being met.

In October 2019 Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, spoke on day two of the Conservative Party Conference with the main focus being on promoting home ownership. Jenrick stated that his proposals was the beginning of a planning revolution, describing it currently as outdated and contradictory. Jenrick announced new freedoms to include permitted development rights to build upwards, so that homes can grow as families’ do, reducing conditions, speeding up consent and increasing funding for local planning authorities.

The additional permitted development rules will initially apply to purpose-built blocks of flats from January 2020, but will eventually include detached houses. They will allow homeowners to add an extra two storeys to their home without requiring planning permission.

Jenrick also announced the first National Design Guide. The design guide is a seventy page document which illustrates how well-designed places that are beautiful, enduring and successful can be achieved in practice. It forms part of the Government’s collection of planning practice guidance and indicates that it should be read alongside the separate planning practice guidance on design process and tools and will form a material consideration when decision making. The document is based around ten characteristics; Context, Identity, Built Form, Movement, Nature, Public Spaces, Uses, Home and Buildings, Resources and Lifespan.

The design guide also sets out the intention of publishing the first ever government backed National Model Design Code, which is to be a clear model for delivering better design across England. The national model will be consulted upon following the publication of; the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission final report, which will be published in December 2019.

The announcements have not come without scrutiny particularly from Richard Blyth, the RTPI's head of policy who described that “new rights to allow two-storey upwards extensions on family homes without planning permission will 'compound the problem' of low quality housing created under previous extensions to permitted development rights”. Richard Blyth went on to describe the policy as a disaster, and the new proposal would also undermine the government's simultaneous efforts to involve communities in improving housing design in their area. Removing the ability of neighbours to formally object to poor development that may impinge on their amenity, and undermining the drive to create good quality, affordable housing across England.

However Mr Blyth welcomed the government announcing the first national design guide and encouraged asking every community and council to produce their own.

The British Property Federation also voiced concerns stating that the extended rights could "alienate" communities. The Local Government Association also raised concerns calling on the government to "allow the planning process to do its job". David Renard, the LGA's planning spokesman, said the policy contradicted the government’s commitment to implement the recommendations in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report into building safety.

Ian Fletcher, Director of Policy (Real Estate) at the British Property Federation, said the BPF was "cautious" about the expanded rights, noting that it could undermine community support for new development. "At a time when the industry is prioritising community engagement and increasing transparency, allowing significant alterations to properties without formal engagement could alienate the communities we need to be supportive," he said, calling on government to increase resources to planning departments to allow them to tackle the housing shortage more effectively.

Sarah James, membership development officer for Civic Voice, the national charity that represents civic societies in England, said: "The government's commitment to producing new national design guidance to raise the standard of new homes nationwide is welcome and we look forward to seeing this being published. However, plans to further deregulate the system through expanding permitted development rights seems to be completely at odds with the current focus on creating attractive, well-designed new homes. Whilst we await to see the detail behind this proposal, we fail to see how taking more upward extensions out of the planning system altogether, without the proper scrutiny and advice from planning authorities and communities will help to create the well-designed places and conservation areas of the future."

This has stirred discussion and concern to whether better design and public involvement is compatible with a relaxation in rules on ‘building up’ and the consequent inability of neighbours to have a formal route to object.

The effects of the implementation of the relaxation of permitted development rights are yet to be seen, if you would like to discuss them please contact us..




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