Boris Johnson announces 'most radical' planning reforms since the end of the Second World War

Anna Mikhailova
Boris Johnson making his speech in Dudley

Boris Johnson has announced the “most radical” reforms of the planning system since the end of the Second World War, as he pledged to “build a more beautiful Britain".

The Prime Minister pledged to “build better and build greener", adding: "but we will also build faster".

It will become easier to get permission to turn commercial buildings into residential homes without requiring planning permission, the Prime Minister has said.

It will also become easier to develop brownfield sites, Mr Johnson announced, which he said will make way for "fantastic new homes".

“Time is money, and the newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country," he said in a speech in Dudley, pictured below.

Mr Johnson criticised the “chronic failure of the British state" to build enough homes, "decade after decade".

It will also become easier to change the use of a commercial building without requiring planning permission. For example, a building used for retail would be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring a planning application and local authority approval. 

Existing commercial properties, including vacant shops, could be converted into homes more easily.

However pubs, libraries, village shops will not be covered by these changes, the government said, as they are the “essential to the lifeblood of communities”.

Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.

It will also be possible to build additional space above properties through a fast-track planning system, subject to neighbour consultation.

The £12bn affordable homes programme will support up to 180,000 new affordable homes in England over the next eight years, the government said.

However this appeared to water down the commitment in the Budget, which pledged £12.2bn for affordable homes over five years.

Ed Miliband, shadow business secretary, said: "So now we discover this 'FDR' speech cuts money for affordable housing -£12bn over 5 years in Budget 2020, now £12bn over 8 years. What an absolute fraud."

The homes programme will include a 1,500 unit pilot of “First Homes” which  will be sold to first time buyers at a 30 per cent discount, the government said.

The changes are due to come into effect by September after changes to the planning laws. Ministers will publish a planning Policy Paper in July setting out plans to reform of England’s planning system.

Boris Johnson in Dudley
Boris Johnson in Dudley - REUTERS

Tom Fyans, policy and campaigns director at CPRE, the countryside charity, welcomed the plans to make it easier to free up brownfield sites which will “ release pressure on greenfield sites”.

However he added: “Deregulating planning and cutting up red tape simply won’t deliver better quality places. It’s already far too easy to build poor quality homes. Our research has shown that three quarters of large housing developments are mediocre or poor in terms of their design and should not have been granted planning permission. 

“The best way to deliver the places that we need, at the pace we need them, is to make it easier for local councils to get local plans in place, and then to hold developers to those plans.”

Mr Johnson also announced a “new, ambitious cross-government strategy” to examine how public sector land can be put to better use, including building new homes.

It is expected to feed into the Spending Review in the Autumn.