Boost for house-building industry

Prime Minister David Cameron at a building site
Prime Minister David Cameron at a building site

A SERIES of measures designed to a much-needed boost to the house-building industry have been announced by the Government.

David Cameron announced the measures to make it easier for tens of thousands of homeowners and businesses to extend their properties.

The Prime Minister said the package would help deliver an additional 70,000 new houses and 140,000 jobs by relaxing planning rules and easing requirements for the provision of affordable homes.

Mr Cameron said the planning system must get “off people’s backs” as he sought to boost construction in a bid to kickstart the economy, in the throes of a double-dip recession.

Families will be allowed to extend their properties by up to eight metres (26.2ft) without gaining full permission, and rules on shops and offices expanding will be loosened.

Obligations for including affordable housing in new developments could also be waived where they are holding projects back.

Treasury funding of £300 million has been found to help provide up to 15,000 such properties and bring 5,000 empty homes back into use, Downing Street said.

New legislation will provide further Government guarantees of up to £40 billion of major infrastructure projects and up to £10 billion of new homes, including a move to guarantee the debt of housing associations and private sector developers.

Under the changes, full planning permission - required for extensions of more than a few metres from the rear wall of any home - will now be needed only for those beyond six or eight metres, depending on whether it is terraced or detached.

Businesses will be able to expand shops by 100 square metres and industrial units by 200 square metres.

Shops and offices will be allowed to develop up to the boundary of the premises.

Another 16,500 first-time buyers are also to receive help getting on the housing ladder under an extension of the FirstBuy scheme.

Would-be homeowners without a deposit are given an equity loan of up to 20% of the purchase price under the scheme.

Ministers have also decided that developers will no longer have to wait five years to apply to change affordable housing requirements if they are making sites “commercially unviable”.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted the change would be more than compensated for by extra Government investment to support the building of more affordable homes.

Mr Clegg said of the change in social housing restrictions: “Instead of having developers sitting for five years on useless land where nothing has happened, no young people are being employed on construction sites, no affordable homes are being built, no new houses are being built for first-time buyers, we are saying ‘Let’s undo that knot at an earlier stage’.

“Our calculations are that there are some sites where they will be able to proceed without building affordable homes. That is why we are putting up £300 million to more than make up for any loss.

“The net effect of all of these proposals, let me be very clear, is more, not less, affordable homes.”

The Prime Minister said: “This Government means business in delivering plans to help people, build new homes and kick-start the economy.

“We’re determined to cut through the bureaucracy that holds us back.

“That starts with getting the planners off our backs.

“Getting behind the businesses that have the ambition to expand.

“And meeting the aspirations of families that want to buy or improve a home.”

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents England’s housing associations, said the package was “a major step forward The Government’s £10 billion financial guarantees, together with the extra £300 million for affordable and empty homes, has the potential to transform the housing market.”

“It will provide homes for some of the millions of families on waiting lists, create jobs and give the UK economy a shot in the arm with a speed and effectiveness few industries can match.

“The only piece of the puzzle missing from this announcement is rapid access to public land.”