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Will the new planning laws help property developers?

Property developers find it a challenge to obtain planning permission. Now, sweeping changes to the planning laws in England are set to cut the red-tape. This is likely to make it easier and quicker to build.

A new Government white paper, called Planning for the Future was published in August 2020. It sets out a blueprint for overhauling the existing system. The changes are designed to boost the construction industry and help kick-start the economy by making it easier to obtain planning permission. This, in turn, will encourage more property development.


Developers would not need full planning application to demolish and reconstruct redundant buildings for housing. Homeowners could also build one or two extra storeys on their house through a fast-track approval system.

This will make a big difference to developers because obtaining planning permission is one of the biggest hassles they face in any project. Delays are frustrating. Indeed, I have known clients lose a deal because planning permission didn’t dome through quickly enough.

The bind is that you can’t get funding or start a project unless you have planning permission and a delay can be costly.

Laws around planning have long-needed reform because we are operating within a fairly archaic system at the moment. It looks as if these changes will make the life of a property developer a little easier.

These changes are also likely to create more opportunities for property developers. Therefore, it is more important than ever that they have access to the funding they need to realise projects.

Inside Housing reported that the overhaul plans have received a mixed reception. Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has suggested the white paper is a ‘developer’s charter’. Others fear it could increase the amount of slum housing and sideline communities from decision making.

However, housing secretary Robert Jenrick has insisted that the Government’s aim is to cut red tape, not standards.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved power which means changes will only apply to England.

The Government also published a separate document along with the white paper. This outlined more short-term changes to the existing planning regulation.


Boris Johnson told the BBC that the changes are ‘long overdue’. “It takes far too long to build a home in this country, and they are way, way too expensive by comparison with France, Germany or wherever. They build many more homes per capita,” he said.

He insisted standards of aesthetics and space would be maintained but said it needed to be moved onwards faster to “get good projects going in a more timely way.”


The changes proposed are…

  • Change of use. More commercial properties will be able to convert to residential without a planning application.
  • Demolish and rebuild. Vacant and out-of-use residential and commercial properties can be rebuilt as homes without a normal planning application.
  • Airspace development. Fast-track system for property owners to build upward extensions.
  • Top down approach. Centralised decision making about how many homes are to be built in an area rather than decisions taken by local authorities.
  • Land categorisation. A zonal planning system. Local authorities will be expected to divide land in their area into either protected, renewal or growth.
  • Local plans. These will be the main way that communities can have their say – and it will be early in the planning process.
  • Design codes. Councils will need to set out what they want from housing built in their area – from how it looks to its energy efficiency. This is designed to maintain standards.
  • Affordable housing and infrastructure. A new system for ensuring developers deliver these.
  • Digitalisation. Plans to reduce paperwork and use more digital technology in planning applications.