Going up! Homeowners will be able to use fast-track planning process to add two storeys to their property

New laws laid in Parliament yesterday will deliver much-needed new homes and revitalise town centres across England, according to Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick.

The new rules, which will come into effect by September, mean full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes, and that commercial and retail properties can be quickly repurposed to help revive high streets and town centres.

Homeowners will also be able to add up to two additional storeys to their property through a fast track approval process, with a requirement to carefully consider the impact on neighbours and the appearance of the extension.

MHCLG says 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.

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, recognising these form part of the fabric of areas.

Last week the government announced changes to ensure theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues are saved for future generations.

Separately, a think-tank report published today by the Social Market Foundation says we should, ‘Let high street shops die – and build new homes in their place’

The paper argues that the decline of traditional high street shopping is inevitable, meaning ministers should focus less on slowing that decline than on supporting new and more beneficial uses for town-centre sites.

A major programme of converting retail units for residential use could allow the creation of 800,000 new homes, the SMF report calculates.

Many of those homes should be built by local councils and other public bodies in a major expansion of social housing, the paper says, and Central government should write off tens of billions of pounds of local councils’ debt to support that programme.

The SMF report, entitled A New Life for the High Street, argues that the coronavirus crisis will accelerate pre-existing trends including a shift away from shopping in urban centres.

As more and more workers spend at least some of their working week working at home, footfall in town centres will decline and more retailers will collapse.

Instead of trying to arrest the inevitable decline of high-street retailers with promises to “save the high street”, the SMF says that national and local politicians should deploy radical new measures to stimulate new life in urban centres and support unemployed retail staff.

To save urban centres, Scott Corfe, SMF Research Director, suggests:

  1. A nationwide program of repurposing city and town centres should be introduced. This would see vacant retail space converted into residential property. Replacing commercial space with residential property could, under cautious assumptions, create 800,000 additional homes under our calculations.
  2. A write off of the £80bn in local government debt sitting on the Public Works Loan Board’s loan book, to stimulate new investment in community assets in town and city centres. This would essentially transfer local government debt into the hands of central government, which is better-placed to service the debt. A debt write-off would liberate local authorities to invest in urban renewal projects – including the creation of new schools, parks, and sports facilities.
  3. Designating areas at risk of urban decline due to loss of retail and office space as Economic Growth Areas (EGAs). Modelled on France’s Zones Franches Urbaines, these EGAs would offer tax incentives for firms moving into these areas, with tax incentives contingent on the hiring of local workers – particularly those that have lost work as a result of economic change accelerated by the coronavirus crisis.

Corfe says:

“Politicians pledging to save the high street are promising voters the impossible.

“Instead of claiming they can turn back the clock, leaders should aim to make inevitable change work better for urban centres and populations.

“Trying to prop up high street retailers facing long-term decline is not an act of kindness to workers or towns.

“It just postpones the inevitable and wastes opportunities to develop new policies to help workers and towns embrace the future.

“Nothing can stop the demise of traditional high street shopping so it would be better for politicians to support the next chapter in the story of the high street, with hundreds of thousands of new homes that bring new life to our urban centres.”


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  1. SoldPal90

    One thing Covid has done is accelerated the death of the high St.
    Interestingly over the last 3 Yrs  a number Local Councils have been borrowing money from Central Gov. at ultra low rates and buying shopping centres for top dollar – these are not looking a very good buy now !! or are they. Houses?
    Such was the scale of these property investment initiatives by Local Authorities  – I think theres a good story here for PE.
     Link : https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/sep/16/council-investment-in-shopping-malls-surges-to-1bn  
    Anyway, my original point – that’s another potential 800,000 homes coming to market and some excellent opportunities for investors to convert.
    Get on board, Get your cheap home,  the train will soon be leaving the station.

    1. Robert_May

      interesting  thought that one, can we chat?


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