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Landlords Skeptical of Gove’s Planning Reforms

Landlords are expressing doubts over the efficacy of Michael Gove’s recently proposed planning reforms. According to data from the specialist buy-to-let broker, Mortgages for Business (“MFB”), many landlords believe the reforms won’t aid the government’s ambition to construct 1 million new homes in England.

Earlier this year, the housing secretary, Michael Gove, initiated a review of permitted development rights. His objective was to simplify planning regulations and make the transformation of larger retail spaces, like takeaways and bookmakers, and offices into residences smoother. Gove further suggested that bureaucratic hurdles might be reduced to facilitate barn conversions. The aim of these alterations in retail space usage rules is to bolster housing density in urban centres.

However, an MFB survey involving 270 buy-to-let landlords showed a mere 7% believe in the potential success of these reforms. A significant question posed was whether the landlords believed that Gove’s planning reforms would aid the government in its mission to construct 1 million new homes in England before the current parliament’s tenure ends. A staggering 59% responded that they anticipate these measures to be largely ineffective.

Delving deeper into the numbers, only 7% of landlords opined that Gove’s strategies are likely to yield substantial results. Another 15% felt that while the reforms might be effective, they wouldn’t operate efficiently on a larger scale. A notable 59% believed the measures would barely have any impact. Moreover, 19% predict that these reforms might exacerbate the housing deficiency. Their argument is that by emphasising urban housing, these policies could divert attention from the urgent requirement to overhaul planning laws for adequate housing provision.

Gavin Richardson, MFB’s managing director, commented, “Britain needs more homes to fulfil more dreams of home ownership and increase choice for renters. It’s great that these proposals mean that fewer empty shops or offices are left gathering dust while we have an urgent need for more homes. But on their own, a review of the rules around permitted development rights is not going to achieve very much. This is a small piece of a very large puzzle — on its own, there’s no way it is going to fix the housing crisis.”

In his previous announcements, Gove had also vouched for the inception of city development corporations. These bodies would have the authority to acquire brownfield land and subsequently transfer it to housing developers. As part of this urban-centric construction initiative, ministers would assert control over brownfield zones to expedite new ventures. Gove has hinted at instituting over a dozen such development corporations. Their role would be pivotal in endorsing compulsory purchase orders and greenlighting planning permissions to promote urban construction.

Rishi Sunak, during the summer, assured the public that the government’s focus would be on enhancing construction in already developed areas without adversely affecting the countryside.

Yet, when landlords were quizzed on whether brownfield site development alone could alleviate the housing crisis, only 24% saw it as a viable solution. Conversely, a significant 76% believed that building exclusively on brownfield sites would not be the answer.

Richardson further stated, “Building in urban areas is an important element in providing more homes but there’s a question of capacity. There’s only scope for 2,000 homes to be built on brownfield sites in Oxford, for example, while in Cambridge it is 2,500. Furthermore, building in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool is not going to solve the housing shortage in the southeast. To do that, we are going to have to build on London’s green belt. Until we accept the need for a ‘green and brown belt’ around London, the South East will continue to be short of homes, which will, of course, support the business plans of thousands of landlords.”