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“Michael Gove’s proposal to ‘relax’ planning rules surrounding building more homes reeks of political desperation” – reaction

by | Jul 24, 2023

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The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, has announced plans to relax planning rules in England in an attempt to build more homes in “the hearts of our cities”. Mr Gove says he intends to make it easier for developers to convert vacant retail premises and betting shops into houses and flats. UK newswire, Newspage, asked property experts for their thoughts, below.

Lewis Shaw, Founder & Mortgage Expert at Shaw Financial Services, said “I’ll believe it when I see it. We haven’t had a coherent housing strategy in the UK for over forty years and the constant revolving door for housing ministers only adds to this problem.”

Russell Maggs, Mortgage & Protection Adviser at Maggs Financial Services, said: “There are very few high quality office block conversions, which is evidenced by mortgage lenders’ reluctance to offer mortgages on these types of property. Whilst there may be great development potential in Mr Gove’s South East constituency, many office block conversions are out of town with little in the way of services or community.”

 
 

Laura Bairstow, Founder at The Mortgage Masters, said: “Whilst in theory this may sound like a good idea, many lenders don’t like to lend on properties that are above or close to business premises. Lenders consider borrowers on this type of property higher risk, resulting in fewer options when it comes to deals and products available. Potential buyers may therefore struggle to get a mortgage or end up paying higher interest rates for the privilege.”

John Choong, Equity Research Analyst at Investing Reviews, said: “Michael Gove’s proposal to ‘relax’ planning rules surrounding building more homes reeks of political desperation as the Conservative government attempts to claw its way back in the polls. It’s more likely than not that the plan is yet another drop in the bucket of empty promises given Gove’s anti-development actions as of late. The levelling-up secretary vetoed Marks and Spencer’s proposal to revamp its flagship Oxford Street store in an attempt to reinvigorate the dying high street in London, and with no reason given. The government isn’t making housebuilding any easier for developers, either. New rules that are set to take effect in 2025 require housebuilders to install better insulation, alongside technology such as solar panels — all while having to pay higher taxes on profits. These moves are only going to further disincentivise housebuilders from building more homes. As such, Gove’s comments seem more like political PR than genuine action.”

Scott Taylor-Barr, Financial Adviser at Barnsdale Financial Management, said: “Making the conversion of currently unused buildings easier is a win-win. It creates more housing for people and regenerates property that otherwise would sit vacant, and boarded-up shops are never going to be a good thing for an area. On the other side of this though, there is a limit, no one wants to see all urban centres just become a glut of new housing with no shops, bars, cafes, or similar, which opens up a different debate about the way the current Business Rates system works and how that needs a massive overhaul to encourage more small businesses to open up in these areas.”

 

Graham Cox, Founder at SelfEmployedMortgageHub.com, said: “Making it easier for developers to convert empty retail premises and betting shops into housing is a welcome development. The high street has changed irrevocably over the past decade and there are only so many coffee shops and estate agents a town can bear. Allowing more mixed-use development could help fill the gap when outlets stand empty. That said, it’s only part of the solution. Despite the NIMBY’s best efforts, we need more house building on both green and brown belt. The biggest obstacle is the ridiculous planning restrictions we have in this country. The lady in Edinburgh who had to repaint her front door about three times before it was deemed acceptable being a shining example.”

Stuart Crispe, Founder at Sunny Avenue, said: “This is a simple change in regulation that will be a welcome boost to the economy. In time, additional housing supply should keep house prices and rents at a reasonable level, while developers add more projects and jobs. However, we’ve heard it all before with Boris and, ultimately, it doesn’t get past the NIMBY crowd.”

Stephen Perkins, Managing Director at Yellow Brick Mortgages, said: “Relaxed planning rules around re-using existing buildings and footprints are welcomed and seem common sense to me. The UK is not building enough homes and has not for a sustained period, which has led to inflated house prices. The Nutrient Neutrality legislation has been very problematic for many developers so does need to be eased, however, the green benefits can be better impacted by ensuring all new homes are built with solar panels and other such proposals. Ultimately, total reform of the UK planning system is required to fix this growing problem.”

Michelle Lawson, Director- Mortgage & Protection Adviser at Lawson Financial Ltd, said: “As with everything the Government comes up with, the devil is in the detail however more homes in ‘the hearts of our cities’ meets quite nicely with the smokescreen agenda of Lloyds, John Lewis etc becoming large corporate landlords by converting the empty office buildings left behind by the working from home impact of Covid. Sadly, it is a shame more is not being done to encourage much needed small business on the high streets rather than the constant drive to provide homes. There are a significant number of empty or vacant properties that could be brought back into the market first.”

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