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Queens Speech – The Drive to Build more Shoe Boxes.

On the 11th May 2021, the Queen delivered a ten minute speech in the House of Lords, that highlighted 30 laws that ministers intend to pass in the coming year.

A key part of the Queen’s Speech was planning reforms, which are expected to be brought before Parliament later this year. The Queen also touched on the Building Regulations systems in the UK, to prevent future accidents.

In the Planning for the Future white paper the Government is proposing several changes, which if implemented, should speed up, simplify, and improve the outcomes of the planning system and make homes affordable and available for ‘everyone’. Under the proposal’s, areas will be designated for growth, renewal, and protection.  

Our previous article on the planning for the future article can be viewed here.

In this short article, Managing Director, Jonathan France discusses some key points regarding planning reforms and the changes that need to be made following the Queen’s Speech.

  • From the perspective of making planning easier and more straight forward, the planning reforms have been welcomed, and are a step in the right direction. A change to the current planning system has been needed for some time as many policies are too open for interpretation or can be swayed to suit a local council’s political agenda. 
  • Councils play a crucial role in the allocating of land for its use, which sadly can fall short of expectations. In some cases, the process of allocating land, which is evaluated and put forward by the local council to be part of the “Local Plan”, often favour their own property ahead of more suitable property that the council does not own.

    Many landowners with property often have to wait too long to be given the opportunity to put forward to the council land that has become surplus and may offer appropriate development opportunity.
  • Concerns are obvious with respects to a blanket approach on land which may, on investigation, not be suitable due to local importance, ecology, wildlife, habitat etc. There is concern that it could be allocated for blanket development, with little thought gone into the impact on its effect of the countryside. It is not always possible to carefully review each parcel of land in detail before being allocated.
  • A further issue is that the reforms do not go far enough. Reforms in the UK should be carried out not only on planning laws, but on the design of new dwellings themselves, insisting on improved ‘minimum sizes’.

    Making it easier for developments to take place is one thing, but the constantly repetitively styled shoe box construction carried out by housebuilders, encouraged by the government is incredibly short sighted. New build homes do not offer sufficient scope for a change in a person’s circumstances, an opportunity for a homeowner to live there and grow their family and live for the rest of their foreseeable life.

    Much is said on new build homes being, despite all the negative aspects, better than those built in the 1930s – 1990s. This is not a “minimum” standard that we should strive to better or accept.

    The bar is set far too low when considering housing sizes or quality to deem any new homes as a better alternative. The only benefit of properties built at that time is that they come with a reasonable garden plot and offer opportunity to have a home a little larger than a 2021 shoe box. 
  • A significant number of new build homes are not built for life long use.

    They are built on postage stamp plots which is as a result of a shared interest between the Council, who have housing targets to meet and therefore encourage increases in housing development density, and the developer who can maximise profit margins. Present New Build homes often have less flexibility for adaptation or extension to be inclusive of a variety of accommodation needs, we have discussed the need to raise accessibility standards of new homes in a previous article that can be viewed here.

    The concern over a lack of scope to extend or adapt a home may not be too bad if the property was of a decent size in the first place.
  • In terms of accessibility, few homes built in the UK are designed to a reasonable wheelchair standard, above the absolute minimum rolled out in Part M of the building regulations. As many aspects of Part M are not mandatory, developers are allowed to phase it out during the construction process to save money and drive up their profit further. 
  • At present the government’s drive has been to make developments easier from a planning application perspective, but this will only compound the issue for having unsuitable homes. 
  • It may solve one problem but will likely create a larger one, when in reality building more appropriate “buildings for life” would meet both Local Council’s target requirements and an allowance for a home to be suitable for a homeowner for the rest of their life. 
  • The UK is not only behind its European counterparts on planning legislation and development, but on the size of homes. Properties in Europe are larger and offer greater flexibility. In many countries the idea of extending a home simply does not exist to the same scale, as properties are of an appropriate “life” size to start with.

    From an environment perspective, this is far more environmentally friendly as homes offer a sustainable living solution for the majority of a homeowner’s life. Many new build homes in the UK simply do not. The UK’s housing stock is a laughing stock.

The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) has responded to the Queen's Speech 2021, the response can be viewed here.

 

References
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/11/johnsons-planning-laws-an-utter-disaster-say-countryside-campaigners

https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/green-light-expected-massive-site-20432801  

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14916580#:~:text=The%20average%20UK%20home%20%2D%20including,15.8%20sq%20m%20per%20room.

https://www.labc.co.uk/news/what-average-house-size-uk

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