Gove Tells Underperforming Councils to Build on Brownfield Now

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Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, announced today (13 February 2024) that big city councils must prioritise brownfield development, build new homes in the right places and protect the green belt. In practice, this would work by applying the presumption in favour of sustainable development, the golden thread running through the National Planning Policy Framework, to brownfield applications in major towns and cities.  Every council in England will be told to prioritise brownfield development and instructed to be less bureaucratic and more flexible in applying policies that stop housebuilding on brownfield land. Planning authorities in England’s 20 largest cities and towns will be made to follow a “brownfield presumption” if housebuilding falls below their locally agreed housing targets. This will help to secure planning permission to build on previously developed brownfield sites and increase housing supply while protecting the Green Belt. Analysis published today as part of the London Plan Review shows that the new brownfield presumption in London could potentially result in up to 11,500 additional homes per year in London alone and by extending it across the county would unlock a significant number of homes.

A consultation on these proposals will run until 26 March and the government will look to implement these changes to national policy as soon as possible as part of its long-term plan for housing.  In addition, the consultation will review the threshold for referral of applications to the Mayor of London to ensure it is set at the right level. The current threshold is set at 150 residential units for referral of a planning application of potential strategic importance to the Mayor of London.

The government is also extending permitted development rights further so that commercial buildings of any size, including shops, offices and other buildings, can be converted into new homes. Other planning proposals include empowering homeowners to extend their homes outwards and upwards which would result in more extensions or large loft conversions as part of a consultation launched today.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail as the onus should be on good quality new homes and not just a numbers game but so far the announcement has been welcomed by developers keen to build more new homes across the board.

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