Developers will be able to build homes on disused commercial and retail sites without going through the full planning process from September.
The government announced new legislation to extend permitted development rights for commercial buildings to be knocked down and replaced with homes without submitting a planning application.
The new rules would also allow for empty commercial and retail properties to be turned into houses and for homeowners to add two storeys to their properties to create more homes or living space.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick hopes this will help revive high streets and town centres blighted by empty commercial buildings.
He said: “We are reforming the planning system and cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing.
“These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high-quality homes at the heart of their communities.”
The National Federation of Builders head of housing and planning policy Rico Wojtulewicz said the changes would make a difference.
“It will certainly increase opportunities for smaller builders but due to the cost of these sites, which is predicted to increase, it may prove more difficult for them to access.”
Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said it would make it easier for property development lenders to finance scheme at the outset rather than waiting until planning is secured.
Quality standards need to be maintained
Mr Wojtulewicz warned the government to be vigilant to avoid repeating earlier mistakes where permitted development rights allowed offices to be converted into housing.
“There’s definitely a danger that the quality of these developments will not be great and we, therefore, need the government to keep an eye on how permitted development is used. We do not want a repeat of the last three years, which saw far too many tiny, windowless conversions delivered.”
A government-commissioned UCL and Liverpool University study out today on the standard of permitted development rights homes revealed mixed results.
Researchers discovered less than a quarter of homes, 22 per cent, were in line with national space standards and 72 per cent of homes had only single aspect windows.
“It is the combination of very small internal space standards, a poor mix of unit types, lack of access to private amenity space or outdoor space, and inadequate natural light which can provide such a poor residential experience in some permitted development units,” noted the researchers.
The government, however, argues the new measures will reduce pressure to build on greenfield sites delivering more homes that fit the character of a local area.
The new laws follow hard on the heels of recent legislation allowing blocks of flats to be extended two stories upwards for new homes without planning permission from August 1st.