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Government to Transform Brownfield Sites into Housing Hotspots in Planning Rule Overhaul

The government has today unveiled a comprehensive overhaul of planning regulations aimed at facilitating the development of homes on brownfield sites. This strategy is designed to expedite housing construction while preserving the cherished Green Belt areas.

Under the new framework, councils across England will be mandated to give precedence to brownfield site developments, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and adopting a more adaptable stance towards policies that have previously impeded progress on such lands. Particularly, large city councils falling short of their housebuilding quotas will face a stricter criterion for rejecting brownfield projects. Planning authorities in the nation’s 20 most populous cities and towns will be subject to a ‘brownfield presumption’ directive, simplifying the approval process for building on these previously developed sites, thereby aiding many young families in securing homes.

Today’s announcement signifies the government’s proactive measures towards its housing strategy, aimed at constructing residences in high-demand areas, particularly large cities equipped with the necessary infrastructure to support new developments. Emphasising a pragmatic approach, the government is focused on optimizing brownfield land use, urban development, and the protection of rural and Green Belt regions.

Officials highlight that the current parliament has seen the construction of the highest number of new homes in three decades. The proposed reforms are set to bolster developers engaged in significant brownfield site regenerations by providing greater certainty and minimizing bureaucratic delays.

An analysis accompanying today’s London Plan Review suggests that the new brownfield presumption could potentially yield an additional 11,500 homes annually in the capital alone. Extending these reforms nationwide is expected to unlock a larger number of homes compared to focusing solely on London.

A public consultation on these proposals is set to commence today, extending until Tuesday, 26 March, with the government aiming to incorporate these changes into national planning policy promptly.

In London, the introduction of these changes is a response to the city’s underwhelming housing delivery, intended to significantly enhance brownfield regeneration projects. The government also plans to alleviate the burden on developers by cutting through the ‘tiresome’ red tape that impedes the transformation of derelict sites and unused buildings into new homes. New legislation will expand Permitted Development Rights, allowing for the conversion of commercial buildings into residential properties without the stringent requirements of planning permission.

Moreover, millions of homeowners will be empowered to expand their homes, as the government launches a consultation on relaxing planning permission for extensions and significant loft conversions.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated, “We pledged to build the right homes in the right places – protecting our precious countryside and building more in urban areas where demand is highest. Today’s package is us delivering on that.”

Housing Secretary Michael Gove remarked, “Today marks another important step forward in our Long-Term Plan for Housing, taking a brownfield first approach to deliver thousands of new homes where people want to live and work, without concreting over the countryside.”

The government’s initiative is supported by Christopher Katkowski KC’s review of the London Plan, advocating a brownfield development presumption. This principle is now set to be applied more broadly across the UK’s major urban areas to stimulate housing delivery and support sustainable growth without compromising the integrity of suburban neighbourhoods or residential gardens.