It has been announced today by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick that new extensions will be fast-tracked as part of changes to the planning laws aimed at boosting spending on homes and giving a lift to businesses.
This was his tweet, in a thread which addressed a number of other issues too:
We are giving families the freedom to build up on their home or build new flats above, providing additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows. (3/4)— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) July 21, 2020
The new laws come into force from September and are designed to speed up the process of approving extensions up to two storeys. Applicants must continue to consider the impact on their neighbours, but it does appear that that usual weeks-long wait for councils to approve what is mostly approved anyway will be cut down.
However, it has already been pointed out to me that as with the Green Homes Grant, a launch in September may put homeowners off from submitting work to architects until the new laws come into place, creating a lag which isn’t going to be helpful for business. Hopefully, that doesn’t materialise. In theory, it would make no sense for homeowners to put architect work on hold until September for this. The process to go from discussions to plans, to submission then approval will still likely take weeks anyway, and we’re only 6 weeks away from September.
As part of the wider shake-up of planning rules, unused buildings like shops on high streets will be allowed to be turned into homes more quickly than before. It’s one of the new tactics being used to try to give a boost to high streets.
It wasn’t too long ago in our district that a planning application for a new conservatory could take 6-8 weeks. That’s two months to wait for the council to (hopefully) say yes to what was almost always granted anyway. It was far too long a time to wait. During the last crisis, revisions on sizes were made larger for new structures to cut those out of the planning process. Now these new measures look set to speed through those that have to go through the usual planning channels.
Will making the planning process quicker encourage more people to spend? I’m not sure. I think people intent on building an extension, single or double, would be invested in the project emotionally and financially regardless of how many weeks it would take to get approval. Shaving a few weeks off the process I don’t think is going to make more people break out their wallets.
It will, however, make the flow of money move faster and that I think is the aim here. To get that cash into the places that matter and get some much-needed tax receipts into the Government.
How much quicker these new rules will be isn’t exactly clear yet. According to the Government website:
The new rules, which will come into effect by September, will mean full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes and commercial and retail properties can be quickly repurposed to help revive our high streets and town centres.
This will help our high streets and town centres to provide more space for new businesses and help them to adapt quickly to what consumers and businesses need.
Homeowners will also be able to add up to 2 additional storeys to their home to create new homes or more living space for growing families 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.
This month the government will set 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. Cutting out bureaucracy to get Britain building, while protecting high standards. Developers will still need to adhere to building regulations.
So it looks like we’re going to have to wait, as we are for additional Green Homes Grant information, for more guidance as to how these changes will work.
It continues to baffle me that announcements are made like this without the infrastructure or at least a more detailed plan to follow through with. They generate good headlines, but questions always follow the headlines and right now we’re going to have to wait for those answers.
In the medium term, I hope that this move is a success. I have always been of the opinion that the planning process takes too long, and hopefully, when launched it will help get projects out of the ground quicker and get the flow of business moving better.
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