Boris Johnson has announced he intends to tear up property planning rules to kickstart the UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes as he pledged to “build, build, build” by injecting billions of pounds into public projects such as schools, roads, railways and hospitals for an “infrastructure revolution” to create jobs and stimulate an economic recovery.
The prime minister said “we cannot continue to be prisoners” of the coronavirus outbreak and that it was vital to plan for the future with new levels of energy and speed.
He said the economy was “between the lightning flash and the thunderclap” and now was the moment to not only emerge from the pandemic, but a chance to be “radical” and to “build back better and to build back bolder”.
The PM pledged the “most radical reforms” of planning since the Second World War to build “faster, greener and better”.
Significant changes on planning include:
- A wider range of commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application
- Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes
- Property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast-track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation
Outlining his vision and announcing £5bn in capital investment to accelerate infrastructure projects this year, the prime minister compared his approach to former US president Franklin D Roosevelt, who focused on investment following the Great Depression of the 1920s.
New regulations will give greater freedom for buildings and land in town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.
Under the new rules, existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily.
The changes, which are planned to come into effect by September through changes to the law, aim to revive high streets which have been heavily impacted by the lockdown.
Mr Johnson said: “This is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades.
“To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK. To unite and level up.
“To that end we will build, build, build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.”