Michael Gove said brownfield presumption will tackle under-delivery. Credit: Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, via CC BY 3.0, bit.ly/43GCfAZ. Image has been cropped.

Gove looks to ‘turbo-charge’ brownfield

Secretary of State Michael Gove wants to speed up brownfield homebuilding and relax restrictions around commercial-to-residential conversions as the government looks to address the housing crisis.

The move comes on the back of Biodiversity Net Gain rules being enshrined in law as part of the Town & Country Planning Act, with all new schemes in England having to now achieve a 10% gain as of yesterday.

The government said today that every council in England will be told that they will need to prioritise brownfield developments and will be “instructed to be less bureaucratic and more flexible in applying policies that halt housebuilding on brownfield land”.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities said that the bar for refusing brownfield plans “will also be made much higher for those big city councils who are failing to hit their locally agreed housebuilding targets”.

As the government seeks to address issues constantly raised in the media about young families being able to afford homes, DLUHC said that planning authorities in England’s 20 largest cities and towns will be made to follow a ‘brownfield presumption’ should housebuilding drop below expected levels.

This is essentially a rollout from the review of the London Plan commissioned by Gove before Christmas, and will “put rocket boosters under brownfield regeneration projects across the country” according to DLUHC.

A consultation on the proposals has been launched today and will run until 26 March. The government said that it will look to implement changes to national planning policy as soon as possible.

In a familiar refrain, the government said it is also “helping developers overcome tiresome bureaucracy by slashing red tape that stops derelict sites and unused buildings being turned into new homes”.

Legislation laid in Parliament today will extend current permitted development rights, so that commercial buildings of any size can be converted into residential, easing the ability of developers to convert shops, offices and other buildings into residential without scrutiny.

Gove said: “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.

“Our new brownfield presumption will tackle under delivery in our key towns and cities – where new homes are most needed to support jobs and drive growth.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “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.

“We are sticking to our plan and are on track to meet our commitment to deliver one million homes over the course of this Parliament, and the changes announced today will deliver the right mix of homes across England.”

The government has launched a further consultation on giving homeowners greater ability to extend, by further altering the size threshold of extensions and loft conversions for which planning permission is required.

In a further move, Gove has said that section 21 “no-fault” evictions will be banned this year.

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