Calls for further reform to planning system and higher investment in housing
Voices from across the property industry have been responding to the HM Treasury’s Autumn Statement.
Among the announcements from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt were pledges to improve the planning process planning.
He announced reforms to allow for higher fees for local authorities to speed up application processing, and help to unlock growth in housing and infrastructure needs.
He also said a further £32 million would be set aside to help resource and unlock the planning system to help create more homes.
Also in the statement was a commitment to consulting on expanding Permitted Development Rights (PDR), which allow householders to improve and extend their homes without the need to apply for planning permission.
The expansion would allow the creation of two flat units within one property, as long as the outside of the house is not changed.
In another move, the chancellor said he was setting aside £450 million in the Local Authority Housing Fund to deliver more homes.
However, Muyiwa Oki, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), said: “In terms of addressing the housing and climate crises, our expectations have not been met.
“While steps to deliver more local authority homes and speed up the planning system are welcome, funding levels for public sector housing continue to fall short.
“Fees for an improved planning service to businesses are welcome, but we also need systemic reform of our dysfunctional planning system.
“It’s also disappointing to see no long-term plan to retrofit our existing housing stock – a critical step to decarbonise our built environment, create jobs and level up the country.
“We will continue to work with the government to ensure we build the high-quality, sustainable homes and places we desperately need.”
Melanie Leech, chief executive British Property Federation (BPF), said: “We know that two of the biggest blockers to delivering the homes, workplaces and vibrant communities needed across the country are an inefficient planning system and delivery of the right infrastructure.
“The chancellor is right to focus on these as part of a wider plan to boost business investment and stimulate growth.
“However, the planning system can only work more effectively, and be held to account for delivering swifter outcomes, if it is resourced properly.
“The planning system has been underfunded for at least a decade and its expertise in handling major projects hollowed out.
“We need a long-term planning skills strategy for local authorities to enable them to determine applications more quickly and make increasingly complex decisions that balance sustainability, heritage and local need.”
Emma Causer, interim UK and Ireland market director for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said: “Investments in housing, through greater funding for local authorities and raising the Local Housing Allowance will help address housing needs, but we still need to build more green, affordable homes.”
And, she added: “The proposal to cut red tape on the conversion of homes into multiple flats is one that RICS urge caution for – history has taught us that such measures, while creating more homes, have come at the detriment of quality.
“We look forward to responding to the government’s consultation on the changes.”