Speaking at last week’s London Property Summit at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, the minister of state for housing, planning and London, outlined several ways he was looking to improve housebuilding.
Mr Barwell revealed that permitted development rights would be extended to allow for the demolition of office buildings which would be replaced by housing on a like-for-like basis.
“There is a profound need to build more homes in this country and none more so than in London,” Mr Barwell stated.
“We need to support the aspirations of hard-working, good people who want to buy a home.”
The housing minister outlined how the government was looking to unlock more land for developers, including the London Land Committee, which has already published an initial database of publicly owned sites and a shortlist of opportunities.
The MP for Croydon Central also said the Housing and Planning Act would require local planning authorities to produce a public register of public land that was suitable for housing.
“The registers will encourage development on derelict and underused land, which can be an eyesore for local communities, and it will help developers and local communities [to] construct new homes.
“We want to get planning permission placed on 90% of suitable sites by 2020.
“We are going to strengthen national planning policy in favour of housing on suitable brownfield land.”
Mr Barwell also spoke of the recently announced £3bn housebuilding fund aimed at smaller developers.
He hoped this fund would encourage innovative, off-site construction, an area which he believed the UK lagged far behind.
“Manufacturing and civil engineering has undergone several revolutions in the last 100 years, yet the way we build homes remains remarkably similar.
“This reflects a degree of understandable caution from lenders, but clearly much more can be done.”
Mr Barwell used an example from Walsall, where off-site construction had been a success, and felt it could play an important role in London.
“What struck me was how these techniques would be especially useful in London, where small sites are often on narrow, busy streets.
“Developers could be striving to get on and off those sites as quickly as possible, causing the minimum disruption for residents and businesses.
“The industry doesn’t have to wait for the big companies to use off-site construction.
“Small builders are already changing the way they work, getting ahead of the market.”
However, the minister also addressed the problem of the gap between the number of planning permissions being granted and the number of houses being built.
He put this down to several reasons which he felt needed to be understood.
“My job is to sort out all of those issues, but then I am entitled to turn to developers and say: ‘You gave me a list of four or five things and I’ve acted on them and now I want to see an improvement in terms of new builds.’
“If I can achieve this holy grail of housing policy stability and do a white paper saying this is the policy platform, then I think my job is an implementation role.
“[That] is, to go around the country, place by place, and say: ‘What’s the problem? What’s stopping this being built?’”