IMLA welcomes govt reforms to planning regulation

The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) has welcomed the changes to planning regulation announced by Boris Johnson yesterday.

The Prime Minister suggested that new regulations will give “greater freedom” for buildings and land in town centres to change use without planning permission, in a bid to create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.

Under the new rules, Downing Street stated that existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, could be converted into residential housing more easily, as part of a move to “kick start the construction industry” and speed up rebuilding.

IMLA welcomed the Government’s planned reforms and suggested a “strong and active” housing market will be “hugely important" in repairing the UK economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is a shortage of suitable housing in this country to meet the demand and varied needs of our population,” IMLA executive director, Kate Davies, commented. “These new measures will go some way to enabling better use of vacant properties and publicly owned land in order to facilitate the development of more homes.

“Many commercial properties have been sitting vacant for years in areas where there is significant demand for housing, and it’s likely the number of vacant commercial offices will increase in the wake of the crisis, with more businesses working remotely or needing smaller spaces.

“It’s quite right that landlords and developers should be able to adapt these properties into homes, provided this is done responsibly and in a way which ensures quality and sustainability.”

The Association also highlighted the Help-to-Buy scheme as another area the Government should consider for the UK to get its housing market “firing at full capacity post-crisis”.

“The Help-to-Buy equity loan scheme is currently due to be changed in 2021 and phased out completely in 2023,” Davies continued. “An extension of the current scheme would prove helpful to developers and buyers, who will be playing ‘catch up’ after the delays caused by the pandemic and lockdown.

“COVID-19 quite rightly needs to be the Government’s priority at the moment, but when the dust settles the spotlight will need to be firmly on working together with industry to build a long-term housing strategy. We are looking forward to the update from the Chancellor next week, for which we are hoping to see more detail about the government’s plans.”

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