New planning rules to make it easier to build on brownfield sites and add home extensions

Ministers are aiming to spark an "urban planning revolution" with a shake-up in planning rules.
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A shake-up in planning rules aimed at increasing Britain’s productivity is part of a new 90-page government White Paper launched this week. The aim, say ministers, is to spark an “urban planning revolution” that will make it easier to build on brownfield sites or to add extensions to existing homes.

There is a huge productivity gap between the UK and other so called advanced nations, such as Germany, France, and the US. Backed by statistics, the paper claims that raising the per capita productivity of the UK to that of the US would raise our gross domestic product by 31 per cent — which it claims equates to a rise in income for every UK household of £21,000.

Even a tiny increase in output of just 0.1 per cent would give every family another £1,100 a year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Given that average UK income is around £35,000 a year, this is significant. This would also increase the UK economy overall by £35 billion by 2030. 


Boosting Britain’s building industry is seen as the easiest way to increase the country’s productivity. The paper admits Britain has been “incapable” of building enough houses and flats. “This frustrates the ambitions of thousands of people who would like to own their own home,” it adds. 

The White Paper, titled “Fixing the foundations to create a more prosperous nation”, was issued by Chancellor George Osborne as a 15-point plan to boost UK productivity over a decade. One of its key ideas is to speed up housing starts and make building new homes easier, as well as making it easier to build extensions or extra storeys on existing homes.

So how do homes come in? The key points are:
  • People need to be able to live in homes near where they want to work. 
  • Housing starts fell by nearly two thirds between 2007 and 2009 according to the Department for Communities and Local Government, while the number of first-time buyers plunged by more than 50 per cent between 2006 and 2008.
  • The paper also admits that a too-strict planning system can prevent land from being used efficiently. 
  • In London, according to the Mayor’s 2020 Vision, 42,000 new homes are needed each year over the next 20 years.

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