Home-builders have been given the green light to get going again.
On Wednesday (13/5/20), Robert Jenrick, Minister for Housing & Planning, made a statement to Parliament and later delivered a powerfully upbeat speech at the 5pm Downing Street Coronavirus briefing, in which he urged companies to ‘Get back to building again’. He also praised those builders who were delivering housing for key workers and highlighted the Government’s ‘First Homes’ scheme for first-time buyers and key workers.
In what he described as a ‘comprehensive and coherent plan’ he issued regulations to restart the building industry, allowing the re-opening of sales offices, show homes, estate agents and the deployment of removal firms to enable anyone in England to move house or buy a new home – subject to social distancing restrictions. As Robert Jenrick said ‘People have been stuck in limbo. Now they can carry on with their house moves and add some certainty to their lives’.
He also sent a clear signal to firms that he wanted to get ‘back to business – building again’ by allowing building sites in England to operate until 9pm Monday to Saturday in residential areas and beyond that in non-residential areas. This allows companies to stagger working times to enable work to continue safely and takes pressure off public transport as part of the Government’s efforts to restart the economy.
But perhaps the most controversial change was in relation to planning appeals. In commenting on the need for the planning system to become more efficient by using more digital technology, he suggested (following the first ‘virtual’ appeal hearing held earlier this week), ‘that all hearings should be virtual within weeks’ to make planning more accessible and user friendly.’
‘Today’, he said ‘we re-open, we restart and renew the housing market and construction industry to protect lives save jobs and begin rebuilding our economy’.
In a separate statement issued during the day, MHCLG introduced new advice to ‘keep the planning system moving as much as we can so that it is able to play its full part in the economic recovery’. It emphasises that
These measures, whilst not individually striking, combine to represent a strong support for the building industry as it helps to lift the economy out of the impending recession. Perhaps the most important omission however is the absence of any progress to allow extensions to those planning consents, imminently due to expire, unlike in Scotland where this measure has been taken. This is partly because to do so would require primary legislation. However, now that developers and builders are being encouraged to return to work, this may now be slightly receding as a key issue.
The LPDF is currently working with consultants, Barton Willmore to prepare a paper for Government indicating how the Land Promoters and Developers can assist the Government on its ‘Road to Recovery’. If you have points, ideas or concerns you wish to raise, please contact: