Budget 2014: Further changes to planning mooted

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Loosening of planning rules for custom builders, the introduction of a planning court in April to speed up applications, along with a consultation into the viability of warehouse-to-residential conversions were all announced by the Chancellor.

Paul Martin, managing director of Ainscough Strategic Land, said: "The Chancellor's announcement that he intends to extend the Help to Buy scheme until 2020 is a huge shot in the arm for the house building industry. However, it will be interesting to see whether the Treasury pro-development stance is firm enough to curb the inevitable politics in the lead up to next year's general election. There is a huge tension between the Treasury's desire to see even more new homes built and the Localism agenda, which has been fuelled by recent ministerial communiqués on plan making and Green Belt release. The next 18 months will be interesting time."

Dan Mitchell, partner in planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore's Manchester office, said: "The Government's commitment to consult on further relaxations of permitted development rights is welcomed and will help businesses expand. That consultation is essentially an extension of what has already been happening with small shops, changes from offices to residential and under-used agricultural buildings. In some circumstances this will be good news for business, although Changes of Use often require additional planning applications anyway to accommodate the new occupier's individual needs. It remains to be seen whether a relaxation of the rules will deliver substantially more housing.

"The Budget intimated possible changes from warehouse to residential, given the acute problem with housing supply in this country. While it may be possible in some circumstances with historic warehouse buildings for conversion to homes proposals will need to be rigorously consulted on and scrutinised before coming in to effect."

Gary Halman, director at HOW Planning, said: "The Budget announcement yesterday was part of a continuing theme of the Government – looking to lighten the burden of planning regulation. But there is evidence that Councils in granting permissions are increasingly "confiscating" Permitted Development rights through planning conditions – which totally undermines the freedom the Government is trying to give to applicants. It needs to be made clear that Permitted Development rights should only be removed in the most exceptional circumstances so the benefits are maximised.

"Looking to extent PD rights is a positive step and reducing the need to apply for permission in certain cases will help ease the burden on local planning authorities which are stretched given their depleted resources and the increased volume of applications now passing through the system.

"Government proposals for eco towns designed to try and tackle the housing shortage never got off the ground. The idea to promote new garden cities – which is a far nicer word than new towns – is fine in principle but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and delivery is everything; plans in themselves don't deliver any housing, and getting major new towns in greenfield locations through the planning system and underway is always a massive task."

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