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Planning shake-up launched to unlock brownfield sites

February 13, 2024

New measures have been unveiled by Housing Secretary Michael Gove to boost development of new homes.

They include prioritisation of brownfield development and the easing of rules so more empty buildings can be converted into homes.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities launched a consultation today, February 13, on the proposed legislation under the title ‘Strengthening Planning Policy for Brown Field Development’.

It runs until March 26 for the public, businesses and organisations to have their say.

According to an announcement of the proposals, every council in England will be told to prioritise brownfield developments and instructed to be less bureaucratic and more flexible in applying policies that halt housebuilding on brownfield land.

The consultation states:

 “We propose a change to national planning policy to make clear that when considering planning applications, local planning authorities should give significant weight to the benefits of delivering as many homes as possible, especially where this involves land which is previously developed. Furthermore, that local planning authorities should take a flexible approach in applying planning policies or guidance relating to the internal layout of development in these circumstances, where they would otherwise inhibit making the most efficient use of a site.”

In addition, planning authorities in England’s 20 largest cities and towns will be made to follow a ‘brownfield presumption’, if housebuilding drops below expected levels.  These town and cities have not yet been named.

Although it will make it easier to get permission to build on previously developed brownfield sites in these 20 areas, it would be encouraging to see this measure rolled out across the whole of England.

The new legislation also proposes to extend current permitted development rights, so that commercial buildings of any size can be converted into new homes – including shops, offices, and other buildings.

Homeowners will also be empowered to extend their homes outwards and upwards – potentially resulting in more new extensions or large loft conversions.

Michael Gove has heralded the changes as an ‘important step forward’ in the government’s long-term plan for housing.

Any measures to unlock more land for housing and simplify the planning process are welcome although fundamental and meaningful reform of the planning system remains an urgent priority.

We will read through the consultation in detail before lodging our response and will keep you updated about developments.

Please contact us to find out how these changes may affect your plan or project.