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Convert in Urban Areas to Turbocharge Housebuilding


The Levelling Up and Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, this week announced plans to relax rules around converting buildings in an attempt to boost house building in urban areas.

Mr Gove stated that “we should make better use of the buildings we already have” by converting unused commercial buildings such as shops, offices and restaurants into living space; rather than continuing to expand into the countryside. Within the current planning system it is tricky to carry out a conversion such as this, however, the government is keen to cut away the red tape to ensure that it becomes much easier in future.

In order to speed up large developments, the government plans to invest £24m to train up planning authorities and £13.5m for a Cambridge based “super squad” of planners poised to tackle roadblocks and accelerate crucial projects.

Moreover, the government looks to also be reviewing proposals to provide greater freedoms for homeowners to carry out property extensions and to open up lofts. However, nothing has been made official yet.

Missing the Target

The government remains committed to building 1 million homes over the course of this parliament, with a separate commitment to build 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s. However, based on Elmhurst’s own analysis of the new build EPC market, it is clear that this target is not being met (More information available in Elmhurst’s Energy Matters Publication).

Housebuilders have been critical of government’s ‘anti-development policy’ with growing costs, cumbersome and inefficient planning processes, and supply chain issues. Moreover, the decision to water down the mandatory housebuilding targets for local authorities, late last year, may have impacted momentum. Today’s news demonstrates a renewed focus, which hopes to regenerate disused brownfield land, and streamline the planning process.

Elmhurst’s New Build Dwellings Manager, Jason Hewins comments:

“It’s great news that the Government are taking measures to address the issues with delivery of new dwellings in urban areas. However we need to ensure all new dwellings are built to the latest energy efficiency standards and we encourage the government to publish the long awaited consultation on the Future Homes Standard as soon as possible to ensure the industry is ready for its adoption in 2025. In regards to conversions the energy efficiency standards for these have seen little change for over a decade so we would encourage Government to look at this for future building regulations changes.”