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Proposed bonfire of building planning regulations – for good or bad

The government is proposing to relax rules on building planning regulations so the number of new homes being built can be accelerated in the biggest shake-up of the system for 70 years.

The Prime Minister has opted to put home ownership at the centre of promises made at the election to even up the perceived imbalances between the North & South of the country. To do that a new planning bill is due before Parliament during this session, which will make it easier for developers to seek and have planning permission granted to build new homes.

The planning bill, which was included in this year’s Queen’s Speech, will aim to improve the chances of property ownership across the country and in particular in areas where the Conservative government won seats from Labour at the General Election.

The plans are controversial and include proposals to scrap Section 106 agreements, which are agreements between developers and local planning authorities about measures that developers must take to reduce the impact of their developments on the community. These are considered as making it too easy for residents and local authorities to block developments.

Other measures outlined include forcing councils to zone swathes of land on three criteria – growth, protection or renewal. The land zoned for growth would benefit from automatic outline planning permission, with councils unable to turn down applications that accord with local rules.

The government has confirmed its determination to push ahead with the full package of reforms, despite the understandable backlash from environmental groups who feel that local residents’ misgivings and local councils will be powerless to stop or amend unsuitable developments.

However, the quality of much current new build property has been called into question, which, if allowed to continue, could derail the goal of providing the volume of homes required and built to the right standards. Over 97% of new home buyers reported snagging problems or defects to their builders last year, according to a recent national new home customer satisfaction survey. It is clear that work needs to be done to hold builders to stricter rules of quality control in order to meet the expectations of buyers and also help the government meet its green target of better insulated and energy efficient homes.

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