Stratford upon Avon T: 01789 293259
Henley in Arden T: 01564 792261
Cheltenham T: 01242 228370
Birmingham T: 0121 200 0890

‘Build, Build, Build!’ Will the Government’s reforms tackle the housing crisis?

Victoria Longmore, Planning expert at Lodders Solicitors, explains the recently announced measures to boost the UK’s housing supply and reinvigorate the high street.

On 30 June, the Prime Minister announced a number of measures to tackle the housing crisis and kick start the construction industry. The Government described the measures as “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War”, adding that it will “make it easier to build better homes where people want to live”.

New laws to support aspects of the  Prime Minister’s announcement were laid in Parliament on 21 July 2020, and are due to come into effect by September. These measures are set to give greater freedoms within town centres and create new homes from the regeneration of empty and unused buildings.

Removing the need for planning permission

The Government has proposed to remove the need for planning permission to demolish vacant and freestanding commercial and residential buildings in order to rebuild them for residential use. The measures should allow for quicker redevelopment of these buildings, and at a lower cost. Restrictions are likely to apply, however, for example in conservation areas.

Nonetheless, concerns about possible poor design, how public open spaces can be secured, and what constitutes an ‘unused building’, are already being raised.

Government plans for the high street

The Government is also keen to tackle the widely reported demise of the high street, an issue which has been exacerbated by the recent Coronavirus outbreak. Many well-known stores have gone into administration, creating empty units on high streets across the country.

The statement by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) which announced the changes also confirmed that the laws would ensure that “commercial and retail properties can be quickly repurposed to help revive our high streets and town centres”.

This will be achieved through amendments to the Use Classes Order, including the introduction of a new Commercial, Business and Service Use Class (Class E).

Within this new Use Class, a business can amend its use, for example, by repurposing from a café to an office, without the need for planning permission. The move is set to allow businesses to adapt to the changing circumstances with greater ease.

The changes appear to be a step forward for the high street – in theory. However, businesses are still left with unanswered questions. Will planning permission be required to switch into the new flexible use class in the first instance? There are also a number of uses such as pubs, libraries, and village shops will not be covered by the flexibilities, on the basis that they are essential to local communities.

Additional space above homes

The new laws will also allow homeowners to add up to two additional storeys to their homes. Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrik MP said that these changes will, “provide much needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows”.

Nevertheless, it is anticipated that applicants will be required to submit a report detailing the potential impact that any extensions could have on neighbours.

The potential to change from commercial to residential

It is also anticipated that the Government will extend the range of commercial buildings allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application

Full details of the new measures are yet to be revealed, but the essence of the change is that it will allow for more housing in town centres.

This will potentially have a very limited impact on the housing crisis, and there are fears that it could in turn produce lower quality homes. The Government has, however, recognised that all residential conversions will need to provide adequate light into all habitable rooms.

Our thoughts at Lodders?

The government’s Build Build Build! plans are laudable but very ambitious, and there remains much to be ironed out and considered. Our planning experts will stay at the forefront of the measures as they evolve so we can bring you up to date advice.

In the meantime, for any planning related or development queries, please do get in touch with Victoria Longmore on 01789 206119, or via email.

Survey: help us shape our service to you
Posted on 16th July 2020 in COVID-19 support and advice
Read full article
Property Forum – Construction Update now available as...
Posted on 29th June 2020 in The Lodders Blog
Read full article
Alastair Frew renewable energy
Lodders unveils new team after surge in renewable energy...
Posted on 24th June 2020 in Press News
Read full article

If you’re a journalist looking for more information about Lodders, or to discuss a press release, please contact:
Diane Wood, V Formation on 07887 794507 or by email

Get in touch...

For any planning related or development queries, please do get in touch with Victoria Longmore on 01789 206119, or via email.