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‘Yet another attack on our planning system’

THE government’s plans to scrap planning permission for houses and hospitals will “slow down” the construction of affordable homes, Shelter warned today. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick proposed a complete overhaul of the system today, which would allow homes, hospitals and schools to be built without full planning permission.  

Part of the new process will involve quicker development on land which has been designated “for renewal,” with a “permission in principle” approach. 

Mr Jenrick said: “Land designated for growth will empower development — new homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices will be allowed automatically.” 

However, housing charity Shelter said that the proposals could have the opposite effect. 

Chief executive Polly Neate said: “Instead of getting England building faster, major changes to the planning system could actually slow us down.  

“Housebuilders risk facing uncertainty as they scramble to understand the new system and what it means for their plans — just as the construction industry is facing a huge economic downturn.

“It could inadvertently put the frighteners on developers building new homes.”

The charity also disputed Mr Jenrick’s claim that an “outdated and cumbersome” planning system was to blame for the fact young people are unable to afford a home. 

“Planning permission is not what is stopping England from getting high-quality, genuinely affordable homes built — a lack of government investment is,” Ms Neate said. 

In England, 280,000 homes received permission between 2011 and 2016 but were never built, the charity said.

Mr Jenrick’s plans follow pledges from the PM to “build, build, build” in the wake of the pandemic. 

The policies have prompted concerns from environmental groups that new building works could come at the expense of British wildlife and habitats.  

Friends of the Earth described Mr Jenrick’s latest plans as “yet another attack on our planning system.”

Although the Housing Secretary said that green belts and areas of outstanding natural beauty would be protected, the campaign group’s senior planner Kate Gordon said she was not convinced. 

“However we also need to consider what happens outside these areas,” she added. “Will these become areas where anything goes?”

“We don't yet know how ‘automatic permission’ will work in practice — the detail has yet to be provided — but going by developers’ record of delivering homes through permitted development rights, this does not bode well.  More homes, possibly, but at what cost?”

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