UK housing reform- What are the changes?

Written by Estelle Corner, Partner at Spire Solicitors LLP.

Estelle Corner

The government has outlined new planning laws in an attempt to bring new life into high streets as well as opening up a new route for housing provision.

At present, full change of use planning permission is required to convert a shop or office into a new type of business or into housing.

Under the new rules, which will come into effect by September, buildings will be allowed to change from commercial usage to residential without the need for planning permission, and house builders will be able to demolish existing vacant residential or commercial buildings and build new homes in their place, also without planning consent.

It is hoped these changes will reduce pressure on greenfield sites as business owners and developers will be able to repurpose premises or brownfield sites that are no longer needed and bring them back into use.

However, pubs, libraries, village shops and any other buildings essential to communities will not be covered by these flexibilities.

Additionally, as part of the new laws, homeowners will be able to add up to two storeys to their home without full planning permission through a fast track process. The aim is to create new homes and living space for growing families. Homeowners will still need to comply with building regulations, and consider the design and impact on neighbours, however they will have less powers to object and block extensions.

Along with the changes to planning, The Law Commission of England and Wales has also published a package of leasehold reforms to transform home ownership for millions of people in England and Wales.

The improvements would make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to buy the freehold, extend their lease, or convert to commonhold.

Leaseholders of houses and flats could have the right to a lease extension for a 990 year term, replacing the shorter extensions of 90 or 50 years under current law. It has also been recommended that there should be no ongoing ground rent under this extended lease, and landlords shouldn’t be able to use the lease extension process to impose new obligations.

It is hoped these changes would encourage more people to buy leasehold properties as they would have more ownership of their home.

This is a brief overview of the reforms. For more information, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077.