Jenrick confirms relaxed rules to boost housing provision via upwards extensions and office demolitions

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick today announced that the government will push ahead with controversial plans to ease planning rules to allow upwards extensions of properties and the demolition of commercial buildings to make way for new homes.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consulted on similar proposals after announcing them in last October's Autumn Budget.  

In March, the MHCLG said it would take forward a new permitted development (PD) right to "extend upwards certain existing buildings in commercial and residential use to deliver additional homes, engaging with interested parties on design and technical details".

But at the same time, the department said it would "continue to consider the design" of the PD right allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes. 

Speaking at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event organised by the Policy Exchange think tank this morning, Jenrick described the two measures as "two new freedoms".

The aim, he said, was to "get the planning system working in a much simpler and faster way".

On upwards extensions, he said it would allow the "freedom for anyone to build upwards, to add up to two storeys to your property, where me as secretary of state grants that rather than you having to ask permission to do so, so your home can grow as your family does too".

On the demolition proposal, he said developers would have a "right" to "purchase properties such as a neglected sixties or seventies office building, demolish it and then rebuild it as housing". 

Jenrick said permisson would be secured through the new permission in principle route, rather than PD rights, as the previous consultation had proposed.

He said this was because "we care about quality and making sure that such a radical step works for communities". 

He added that developers "will have to work productively with the council and community hopefully to make sure the facade is right, the height is right, the parking is there and anything else that matters to the council". 

Jenrick said the measure would be "particularly focused on smaller developers outside of London and the South East".

He added: "There could be more of these freedoms coming so we are vey interested in further work there to get the system working faster."

In an interview with the Times today, Jenrick also responded to criticism that the PD rights policy, particularly those allowing offices to be converted into residential, had produced poor quality housing.

Jenrick said the policy had brought 20,000 homes onto the market in the past year.

However, he said he would study the findings of a report commissioned under his predecessor James Brokenshire that is reviewing the quality of homes provided under the policy.

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