Landlords unimpressed with Gove’s planning reforms

Michael Gove’s proposed planning reforms have failed to win over landlords, according to specialist buy-to-let broker Mortgages for Business.

Related topics:  Landlords,  PRS,  Government,  Reform
Property | Reporter
5th September 2023
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"Until we accept the need for a ‘green and brown belt’ around London, the South East will continue to be short of homes, which will, of course, support the business plans of thousands of landlords"

In July, Michael Gove, the housing secretary, announced a review of permitted development rights in a bid to shake up planning rules, setting out plans to make it easier to convert large shops — such as takeaways and bookmakers — and offices into homes. Gove also said red tape could be cut to enable barn conversions.

The proposals to relax rules around the use of retail space are designed to provide greater density of housing in inner cities.

However, a poll of 270 buy-to-let landlords conducted by MFB found that only 7 per cent of landlords thought the reforms would be successful.

When asked “Do you think Michael Gove’s proposed planning reforms will help the government build 1mn new homes in England by the end of the current parliament?” 59% of landlords said they thought the results were “unlikely to scratch the surface”.

While only 7 per cent of landlords thought that Gove’s review was likely to achieve a great deal, 15 per cent said the reforms could work “to a small degree, but not at scale”. While almost three in every five landlords (59 per cent) said the reforms “wouldn’t scratch the surface”, 19 per cent thought the reforms could make the housing shortage worse, as they focus attention on building homes in cities — and allow politicians to ignore the need to scrap planning laws if we are to build enough homes to right-size our housing supply.

Gavin Richardson, the managing director of MFB says: “Britain needs more homes to fulfil more dreams of home ownership and increase choice for renters. It's great that these proposals mean that fewer empty shops or offices are left gathering dust while we have an urgent need for more homes.

"But on their own, a review of the rules around permitted development rights is not going to achieve very much. This is a small piece of a very large puzzle — on its own, there’s no way it is going to fix the housing crisis.”

In July, Michael Gove also promised the creation of city development corporations with the power to buy up brownfield land and sell it on to housing developers. His big-city building drive will involve ministers seizing control of brownfield areas to push through new projects. Gove said he was planning more than a dozen new development corporations that would be able to use compulsory purchase orders and grant planning permission to boost building in urban areas.

In the summer, Rishi Sunak promised that his government would deliver new homes without “concreting over the countryside” as he set out plans to focus housebuilding in areas that are already built up.

However, when asked if the country could tackle the housing crisis by building on brownfield sites alone, almost a quarter of landlords (24 per cent) said they thought it was possible. Three times that many (76 per cent) thought the housing crisis could not be solved by building on brownfield sites alone.

Gavin Richardson said: “Building in urban areas is an important element in providing more homes but there’s a question of capacity. There’s only scope for 2,000 homes to be built on brownfield sites in Oxford, for example, while in Cambridge it is 2,500.

"Furthermore, building in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool is not going to solve the housing shortage in the southeast. To do that, we are going to have to build on London’s green belt. Until we accept the need for a ‘green and brown belt’ around London, the South East will continue to be short of homes, which will, of course, support the business plans of thousands of landlords.”

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