Thursday 27 June 2019 4:00 pm

Reforms to planning and Help-to-Buy unveiled by government

A shake-up of Britain’s planning system that will let councils approve applications more quickly and enforce tougher Help to Buy rules on developers was unveiled today.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has revealed plans to introduce new quality controls on housebuilders, while also pledging to prevent developers from selling leasehold houses through its Help to Buy Scheme.

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Homes England has been instructed by the government to renegotiate contracts with all Help to Buy developers to explicitly rule out the building and selling of leasehold houses, in a move that it claims will stop taxpayers’ money from directly supporting the unjustified sale of leasehold houses.

The measure comes amid growing accusations that the Help to Buy scheme has been used by some developers to inflate house prices, despite being designed to help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder.

Brokenshire also announced plans to speed up the process of granting planning permission as part of an effort to tackle a shortage of homes.

He said: “We need to build on the strides we have made so far to increase supply to 300,000 new homes a year – which means building faster and reducing planning delays.”

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Kristian Niemietz, head of political economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, welcomed the policy but warned that the “idea that the main problem with the system is one of “speed” is misguided”.

He added: “The British planning system is one of the most restrictive in the world; in those parts of the country where housing demand is highest, development tends to be either severely constrained, or not possible at all. Speeding up the planning process, without making it substantially more permissive at the same time, is not going to solve our entrenched, long-term problem of undersupply.”