Legislation to help the construction industry boost building and return to work safely will be introduced this week as the government aims to stop plans for 24,000 homes being scrapped.
This news comes as data released by Knight Frank today showed interest in new-build properties had increased four per cent year-on-year in the first two weeks of June.
The property firm said it expected interest to rise over the month, following notable demand in May.
Viewing numbers also picked up with levels only six per cent below the five-year weekly average despite the suspension of the property market.
Extending planning deadlines and faster appeals
The government is expected to announce extensions to planning permission deadlines, speed up planning appeals and allow builders to have more flexible working hours following agreement with their local council.
Planning permission usually expires after three years if work has not started onsite and sites with consent that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year will see that extended to 1 April 2021.
This is in an aim to prevent work that has been temporarily disrupted by the pandemic from stopping altogether.
The government estimates that by the end of June, more than 400 residential permissions providing more than 24,000 new homes would have expired. The incoming measures will help these developments to resume when the economy recovers.
They will also permanently grant the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) the ability to use written representations, hearings and inquiries simultaneously when dealing with a planning appeal, so they can be processed faster.
Last year, a pilot programme tested this approach and implemented recommendations of the review, which was found to have reduced the time taken for appeal inquiries from 47 weeks to 23 weeks.
These measures will also help builders temporarily agree flexible working hours with their local council allowing them to follow public health guidance onsite and stagger arrival times.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Building the homes the country needs is central to the mission of this government and is an important part of our plans to recover from the impact of the coronavirus.
“New laws will enable us to speed up the pace of planning appeals and save hundreds of construction sites from being cancelled before they have a chance to get spades in the ground, helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many others.”
“Taken together, these measures will help to keep workers safe and our economy moving as we work together to bounce back from the pandemic,” he added.
Not going far enough
Stuart Baillie, head of planning at Knight Frank, said the government’s plans “will not be impactful enough” as “greater flexibility” was still needed.
He said: “The government has been talking about extending planning permissions for some time. The extension announced today by Robert Jenrick is not very generous and will likely not be impactful enough to create the desired effect – namely increasing delivery.
“Providing greater flexibility with a full 12 – or even 24 – months added to the expiry date would have been preferable.”
In its report, Knight Frank predicted total new–build housing delivery will fall by 35 per cent in 2020 as it suggested supply would remain constrained for 12 to 18 months.
James Mannix, head of residential development at Knight Frank, added: “Housebuilders will be keeping a close eye on the recovery of the housing market; once they start to see demand return, they will look to gradually increase output.
“The speed of this demand increase will also effect land-buying decisions. Deals are still taking place, but at a slower rate with delayed completions, Covid-19 clauses, and extensions to bid deadlines.”