Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, plans to ease planning rules in England to encourage the construction of more homes in city centres. His aim is to make it simpler to convert vacant retail premises and betting shops into flats and houses. However, critics argue that such conversions often result in poor-quality housing.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reaffirms the party’s commitment to building one million homes before the anticipated 2024 election. Nevertheless, a report from the Commons housing committee revealed that while the government is on track to achieve its one million home target, it is not expected to meet its goal of delivering 300,000 new homes annually by the mid-2020s.
Meeting this figure became more challenging after the government diluted housing targets for local councils due to opposition from its own MPs, particularly those representing rural constituencies. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, emphasised that the government’s plan is to build homes where they are most needed and where local support exists, prioritising urban areas over countryside development.
Labour’s shadow housing secretary, Lisa Nandy, criticised the Tories, stating that the housing crisis has worsened under their administration.
During a speech in central London, Michael Gove expressed the government’s unwavering focus on urban areas, aiming to create denser cities with walkable and livable communities, thereby reducing commuting times. He believes that fostering vibrant urban spaces will also benefit the UK economy.
As part of his plan to increase housing availability, Gove intends to facilitate the conversion of shops, takeaways, and betting shops into residential units. Some commercial properties already have “permitted development rights,” allowing them to be converted into homes without requiring planning permission. In the past year, over 10,000 properties, including former offices, underwent such conversions.