"Project Speed" To Increase Home Building

Published: 30/06/2020

Boris Johnson announced on the 30th of June, an ambitious £5bn plan to boost the UK economy with a focus on infrastructure development. The funding will be used for building homes, public services, and transport links, and adds substance to his “build, build, build” pledge to change planning laws to prevent delays in large-scale building projects and deliver greener and faster homes.

Dubbed “Project Speed” the new regulations, planned to take effect from September 2020, will give greater freedom for buildings and land in town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.

Under the new rules, existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily, in a move to kick start the construction industry and speed up rebuilding. All this will reduce the pressure to build on greenfield land by making brownfield development easier. Developers will still need to adhere to high standards and regulations, just without the unnecessary red tape.

The changes include:
  • A wider range of commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application
  • Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes
  • Property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation.
Funding in England

£900m has also been made available for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year. These announcements come alongside a package of measures to support home building across England, which include:  
  • A £12bn affordable homes programme that will support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years, confirmed today, 30 June 2020.
  • Included in the affordable homes programme will be a 1,500 unit pilot of ‘First Homes’: houses that will be sold to first time buyers at a 30 per cent discount which will remain in perpetuity, keeping them affordable for generations of families to own. 
  • Funds from the £400m Brownfield Land Fund have today been allocated to the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, and North of Tyne and Tees Valley to support around 24,000 homes.
  • The Home Builders Fund to help smaller developers access finance for new housing developments will receive an additional £450m boost. This is expected to support the delivery of around 7,200 new homes. 
Cross-Government strategy

There will also be a new, cross-government strategy to look at how public sector land can be managed and released so it can be put to better use. This would include home building, improving the environment, contributing to net-zero goals and injecting growth opportunities into communities across the country.

Economic recovery

The Prime Minister acknowledged the pressures the COVID-19 crisis had brought to bear on the UK economy and that, while many may be nervous about COVID-19 flare-ups, the measures formed a basis for businesses to plan for the future. He ruled out a return to austerity, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will make further announcements next week with immediate plans for economic recovery.