UK plans to unlock brownfield land for new homes

Councils will have new tools to speed up development of derelict and underused land for new homes, the UK government has announced.

Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell has confirmed that local authorities across the country will now have to produce and maintain up-to-date, publicly available registers of brownfield sites available for housing locally.

The new registers will help housebuilders identify suitable brownfield sites quickly, promising to unlock land for thousands of new homes.

Communities will be able to highlight local derelict or underused building sites that are primed for redevelopment. This can bring investment to the area and increase the number of new homes in the area.

As set out in the recently published Housing White Paper, the registers are part of the government’s push to speed up house building, promote brownfield sites for development and release land to deliver many more new homes.

“We need to build more homes in this country so making sure that we re-use brownfield land is crucial,” comments barwell. “We want to bring life back to abandoned sites, create thousands more homes and help protect our valued countryside. These new registers will give local authorities and developers the tools to do this.”

Brownfield registers were first piloted in 2016, when 73 local planning authorities across the country pioneered the measures.

In addition, the £3 billion Home Builders Fund will be used to support the development of brownfield sites, with an additional £1.2 billion provided to unlock at least 30,000 Starter Homes on brownfield land.

The government has also introduced a new way of obtaining planning permission through these new registers. It will make it easier for developers to deliver housing in the places where people want to live.

“Permission in principle” will simplify the planning process for developers. It will give them more certainty over whether a site is suitable for development ahead of working up costly proposals to obtain full planning permission. This will encourage new development and increase the amount of land available to build on, helping to boost housing supply.

Further legislation will follow this year to roll-out permission in principle more widely through the planning system.


Housing white paper: UK government promises more affordable homes, faster

7th February 2017

The UK government has unveiled its new housing white paper today, announcing new measures to deliver more affordable homes, faster.

“Our housing market is broken,” admitted Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, addressing Parliament today. “Since 1970, house price inflation in Britain has far outstripped the rest of the OECD. The idea of owning or renting a safe, secure place of your own is, for many, a distant dream.”

The paper will give more powers to councils across the country to encourage developers to build on land quickly, and more in line with local needs, as well as introducing longer tenancies within the private rented sector.

For local authorities, the Government is offering higher fees and new capacity funding to develop planning departments, simplified plan-making, and more funding for infrastructure.

For developers, the government is offering a planning framework that is more supportive of higher levels of development, with quicker and more effective processing and determination of planning applications. It will also encourage the use of modern construction methods to boost innovation and sustainability, as well as productivity.

It will also back small and medium-sized builders to grow, through the previously-announced Home Building Fund.

“We will make it easier for local authorities to take action against those who do not build out once permissions have been granted,” says the paper.

All local authorities, in turn, will be required to develop an up-to-date plan with their communities that meets their housing requirement.

Where progress is not as fast as it should be, the government will intervene.

The ability for councils to increase planning fees by 20 per cent should increase house building by SMEs, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, comments: “Both house builders and local authorities agree that the Government will not be able to build one million homes by 2020 unless council planning departments are properly funded. That’s why SME house builders will give a cautious welcome to the announcement in today’s Housing White Paper that central Government will allow councils to increase planning fees by 20 per cent if they commit to investing the extra funds in planning alone and not in other areas. This is something that the FMB has been calling for and in our view, is one of the biggest game changers to come from today’s 100 page Housing White Paper.”

Institutional investment will also be encouraged in the country’s private rented sector, as the government prioritises build to rent developments.

For tenants who are saving up to purchase a home, family-friendly tenancies of longer lengths will also be introduced.

For would-be homeowners, meanwhile, Help to Buy and Starter Homes will continue to support first-time buyers, while a “lifetime ISA” to help first-time buyers will help them raise the money for a deposit.

David Cox, Managing Director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, comments: “ARLA welcomes any attempt to improve stability in the housing market and it is important that tenants feel that they are secure in their homes and are able to plan for the future. We welcome the Government’s approach to this, and have been working closely with DCLG on proposals for incentivising longer term tenancies; after all, it is in the best interests of landlords, tenants and agents to have long, well maintained tenancies.”

“Only 32,000 affordable homes were built in 2016, and this is totally unacceptable, especially given the number of homes we really need,” adds Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the National Association of Estate Agents. “We’ve had years of empty promises now and this has exacerbated the problem resulting in the price of properties being out of reach for so many.

“The announcement the Government plans to diversify the market by opening it up to smaller builders who embrace innovative and efficient methods is great and could go some way in helping deliver a vast number of homes quickly. However, it’s vital the Government considers the cost of building modular homes and understands these could remain unaffordable and unsuitable for FTBs.”

Owen Woodley, Managing Director of Post Office Money, adds: “Post Office research shows that, at present, more than eight million UK renters expect to never own their own home. More new build properties are vital to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive housing market and we welcome today’s call for councils to build thousands more homes across the country. We look forward to seeing how this scheme is implemented and welcome further clarity on how these will be financed.”