Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured above) revealed that planning appeals will be sped up and builders will be allowed more flexible working hours on construction sites to support social distancing, following agreement with their local council.
Usually, planning permission expires after three years if work has not started onsite.
Sites with consent that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year will now be extended to 1st April 2021, in a bid to prevent work that has been temporarily disrupted by the pandemic from stopping altogether.
The government estimates that, by the end of this month alone, more than 400 residential permissions providing over 24,000 new homes would have expired.
New measures will also permanently grant the planning inspectorate (PINS) the ability to use more than one procedure — written representations, hearings, and inquiries — at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal, to speed up the process.
“Building the homes the country needs is central to the mission of this government and is an important part of our plans to recover from the impact of the coronavirus,” Jenrick stated.
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“New laws will enable us to speed up the pace of planning appeals and save hundreds of construction sites from being cancelled before they have a chance to get spades in the ground, helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many others.
“Taken together, these measures will help to keep workers safe and our economy moving as we work together to bounce back from the pandemic.”
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has welcomed the news and said that the government has “listened to the industry”.
“Extending expiring planning permissions will secure jobs, give the supply chain certainty and ensure businesses still have a pipeline of work to deliver,” explained Richard Beresford, chief executive at the NFB.
“It’s great news.”
Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, agreed that speed will be of “paramount importance” as the industry tries to get back on track.
He claimed that increasing the uptake of modern methods of construction “must be a priority” in order to recover fast and effectively.
"Manufacturing homes offsite means they can be delivered twice as quickly as those built using traditional methods and with much less disruption to local communities, enabling flexible working hours on construction sites.
“This is a crucial time and, unless we innovate now, we will be facing an ever-deepening housing crisis."