Budget Small Print Holds The Key

Fri 2 Nov 2018
Issue 7 cover

There was important news for housing, planning and design beyond the headlines and budget speech.

  • Consultation on planning reform to support more new homes on the high street (heavily trailed but it includes what could be a major expansion of permitted development rights).
  • Final recommendations from the Letwin review to speed up build-out rates with new planning rules requiring greater diversity of tenure and types of homes plus new powers for local authorities to drive development.

Otherwise, in a budget that disappointed the housing sector, the chancellor confirmed lifting the borrowing cap for local authorities. The OBR was sanguine about net housing numbers, estimating that although councils will build 20,000 extra homes between now and 2023/24 it will be partly offset by a decrease in housebuilding by private housebuilders and housing associations leading to a net increase of just 9,000 homes over the next five years.

How does the budget affect planning and design?
Consultation on planning reform including expansion to permitted development rights. Plans to extend permitted development rights are likely to meet with opposition. Councils are up in arms because they have little control over conversions from office to residential, and are already seeing homes created far below the minimum standards that most people would consider acceptable, according to RIBA President, Ben Derbyshire.

Government is asking for views on 'rights to allow greater flexibility for change of use; using the airspace above existing buildings for additional new homes and extensions….'

'We also propose to make permanent other existing time-limited rights…continuing change-of-use rule relaxations that allow new homes to be delivered in buildings designed for other uses – building on the recent controversial office-to-resi phenomenon.'

Many of us, including in the housing, design and planning industry, welcome more densely built and populated places. We recognise that homes above existing buildings, close to services and infrastructure can be useful and sustainable when they are done well. Unfortunately, as we have seen with permitted development rights for conversions of offices to residential, they are often done very badly, with no regard to how people will live in them. Blanket permissions remove the local community’s right to a say in setting standards and pave the way for general degradation; from loss of light to ruined streetscapes.

Next week we’ll cover the implications of the Letwin review, that some commentators believe could change everything for housing. Let’s see.

Author: Jane Briginshaw, Design England

Cover image: ZOOMFACTOR architects

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