Is it time to rip up ancient UK planning regulations?

Many of the planning regulations still applicable to the UK property market were created in a very different environment to the one we see today. The UK population is growing at a significant pace, affordable property is now at a premium and the mix of investors and domestic buyers has pushed UK property prices to uncomfortable levels in some cases. So, is it time to rip up the ancient UK planning regulations and start again?

Who polices UK property regulations?

Historically local councils have been given the task of looking after UK property regulations and ensuring that the letter of the law is adhered to. While nothing is ever perfect in the world of politics the policing of these regulations has been fairly successful in recent times. However, as we touched on above, the make-up of the UK population has changed dramatically and further changes are expected in the short, medium and longer term.

The UK government has tended to take a top-down approach passing new laws and regulations at the highest level and then transferring ownership to local authorities. There has been speculation that the UK government is looking to take a more hands-on approach which could lead to significant changes.

Relaxing regulations

There are rumours that the UK authorities are now looking to relax regulations regarding the use of brownfield sites as well as the continued abolition of local authority planning consent when converting unused offices to residential properties. These two elements would make a significant difference to the UK property market and open up enormous areas of the country for development.

As we touched on above, currently local authorities have the task of policing planning regulations although neither the local authorities or the government of the day have really issued anything in the way of new build targets. If the rumours are correct, this is about to change and while there has been scepticism regarding promises made at the last general election it looks as if the Tory party may at last be looking to make some progress in this area.

Starter homes

Over the last few years we have seen the introduction of a limited number of starter homes, financial assistance for first-time buyers and further growth in the shared ownership of property. While these are all factors which will allow many people to climb aboard the property ladder we do need to see a significant increase in the number of new builds in the short, medium and longer term.

It would be a little foolish to expect a glut of new properties because this would have a detrimental impact upon prices, spreading demand amongst a greater number of properties. In some ways the greatest challenge for the authorities of the day is to maintain a buoyant property market but ensure that property price growth does not outstrip growth in household income.


There have been rumours and counter rumours with regards to the future housing policy of the UK government. During the run-up to the general election much emphasis was placed upon first-time buyers and we wait with anticipation developments in this particular area. Offering tenants the right to buy, increasing financial assistance for first-time buyers and the encouragement of shared ownership will help many in the short term but what are the long-term implications without an increase in the number of new build properties?

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