Housing and Planning — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:46 pm on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:46 pm, 3rd March 2020

My hon. Friend raises an important point. That is certainly true of some key public services, such as King’s College Hospital in my constituency, where staff are moving further and further away from the hospital because they cannot afford to live close to it. It is a widespread issue.

Recently the Government have come forward with mooted proposals to increase the cap on the Help to Buy scheme to £600,000 within its affordable housing programme. It beggars belief that the Government think that that will do anything to address genuine housing need in this country.

I want to highlight one further aspect of the planning system that needs urgent attention: permitted development rights. In the last Parliament, the Government expanded permitted development rights. They did so against all advice from the sector, resulting in examples of the most appalling accommodation being delivered across the country, with office accommodation being converted into homes without full planning permission.

There are a number of things wrong with this system. The first is that in bypassing the planning system, a number of the checks on quality of design and space standards are being bypassed altogether. Section 106 opportunities are also being lost, so those homes are not contributing anything to public or open space or to facilities in in the surrounding area.

Those homes being delivered under permitted development rights that are good enough and of a standard would not have had a problem getting through the planning system, so I fail to understand why the Government are continuing to cut the planning system out of this important aspect of housing delivery. We cannot be delivering the slums of tomorrow in order to satisfy spreadsheets today. It simply will not do. It has to stop. I hope the Minister, in responding to the debate, will say some positive things about the need to scrap permitted development rights, rather than expanding them further.

Finally, our planning system has a vital role to play in combating climate change. The relationship between the built environment and climate change is substantial, and unless we fully resource our planning system and enable local authorities to play the fullest possible role in place-making and in driving up standards of insulation and carbon reduction in new development and in new housing, we will not achieve the level of carbon reduction that we need to in order to resolve the climate emergency, and we will still be building homes today that will need to be retrofitted tomorrow. I end with that point, calling on the Government to resource our planning system properly and to recognise the role that it has in facilitating and delivering the high-quality homes we need to build, at scale, in order to resolve both our housing crisis and the climate emergency.