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Planning shake-up begins with laws allowing demolition of unused buildings for new homes, and homeowners to build two additional storeys

The Government has laid laws in Parliament today (21 July 2020) that will mean full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said the changes, due to come into effect by September, would mean commercial and retail properties could be quickly repurposed to help revive high streets and town centres.

Under the changes homeowners will also be able to add up to two additional storeys to their home to create new homes or more living space through a fast track approval process, “with a requirement to carefully consider the impact on neighbours and the appearance of the extension”.

This will reduce pressure to build on greenfield sites and deliver more homes that fit the character of their local area, without the red tape, the MHCLG claimed.

The MHCLG added that the government would this month out plans to reform “England’s 7-decade old planning system to deliver more high-quality, well-designed homes, and beautiful and greener communities for people to live in”.

It stressed that developers would still need to adhere to building regulations.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are reforming the planning system and cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing.

“These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high quality homes at the heart of their communities. It will mean that families can add up to 2 storeys to their home, providing much needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows.

Pubs, libraries, village shops and other buildings essential to communities will not be covered by these flexibilities, the MHCLG said, “recognising these form part of the fabric of areas”.

It added that councils “will need to take the temporary impact of coronavirus into account when considering permission for change of use, redevelopment or demolition of these buildings, and this will not change due to the new laws introduced today”.

Responding to the MHCLG’s announcement, the Local Government Association's housing spokesman, Cllr David Renard, said: “The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding with nine in 10 planning applications approved by councils. It gives local communities the power to shape the area they live in and provides an effective means of balancing the interests of homeowners and their neighbours. 

“Neighbours have the right to a say on development and should not be exposed to the potential of unsightly large-scale unsuitable extensions being built unchallenged and without scrutiny in their communities.”

He added: “Taking further planning powers away from communities and councils will only deprive them of the ability to define the area they live in and know best. It risks giving developers the freedom to ride roughshod over local areas with communities having no way of ensuring they meet high quality standards, provide any affordable homes as part of the development or ensure supporting infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services are in place.

“It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process and are able to oversee all local developments.”