New homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices will get “automatic” permission to be built, under a radical shake-up of planning laws.
After Boris Johnson promised to “build, build, build” in order to create more affordable homes, the government is unveiling what is billed as the biggest change to the planning system since it was created in 1947.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick says the “outdated and cumbersome” planning rules, in which it takes on average five years to approve a new housing development, are fuelling a “generational divide” between older homeowners and young people struggling to get on the property ladder.
Under new rules, land will be designated into three categories.
Land for growth will allow new homes, schools and GP surgeries to be built automatically – if the council has judged there is a need for it.
Renewal areas, mostly existing urban areas, will see plans get “permission in principle”, to make the process faster while allowing for appropriate checks, in order to regenerate high streets and allow new housing developments.
And protected land, such as the green belt and areas of outstanding national beauty, will be banned from new development.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Jenrick said: “Our country’s outdated and cumbersome planning system has contributed to a generational divide between those who own property and those who don’t. Half as many 16 to 34-year-olds own their own homes, compared to those aged between 35 and 64.”
He added: “While house prices have soared since the Millennium, with England seeing an increase at one of the fastest rates in Europe, our complex and slow planning system has been a barrier to building homes which are affordable, where families want to raise children and build their lives.
“It’s resulted in delays to vital infrastructure projects that come with new housing. Communities are missing out on new hospitals, new schools and improved roads, and restrictions have left derelict buildings as eyesores and empty shops on our high streets, instead of helping them to adapt and evolve.”
The government hopes relaxing planning laws will create millions of jobs in the construction sector, and give the economy a much-needed boost as the retail and hospitality sectors continue to struggle.
In their election manifesto, the Conservatives promised to build 300,000 new homes a year “in the areas that really need them”, but to try and build public support for them by insisting on better designed and more appealing homes.
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Mr Jenrick claims that the reformed planning system would build on the “pattern book” architecture of the 19th century, in which home designs would have to be in keeping with the local area.
Local Government Association chairman Councillor James Jamieson said: “Any suggestion that planning is a barrier to house building is a myth. Nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils, while more than a million homes given planning permission in the last decade have not yet been built.
“We all want great communities. The planning system needs to be able to ensure developments are of a high standard, are built in the right places, include affordable homes, and are supported by infrastructure that provides enough schools, promotes greener and more active travel, and tackles climate change.
“Only last week the government’s own independent report warned of the worse quality of homes not delivered through the planning system.
“We urge the government to heed these warnings and not further side-line the planning process. We stand ready to work with government to ensure any reforms improve the system.”