John Healey (pictured), shadow housing minister, said the current rules – which allow people to sidestep the normal planning process when turning commercial spaces into housing – provide developers with a “get-out clause” allowing them to dodge social housing obligations “and build slum housing”.
He cited research from the Local Government Association, which suggested that as many as 10,000 affordable homes have been lost as a result of permitted development over the last three years.
Healey said: “To fix the housing crisis, we need more genuinely affordable, high-quality homes. This Conservative housing free-for-all gives developers a free hand to build what they want but ignore what local communities need.”
The Federation of Master Builders warned that if Labour intended to “put more strain” on the planning system by scrapping commercial to residential permitted development, then it must think carefully about how planning will be resourced.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the trade body, cautioned against making permitted development synonymous with poor quality.
He continued: “In recent years, permitted development rules governing domestic properties have been relaxed, which has made it easier for home owners to extend their homes without having to go through the rigmarole of a full planning application. These permissions have proved popular among builders and homeowners alike.”
However, Berry accepted that Healey was right to take aim at ‘rabbit hutch’ homes without windows being developed though permitted development rights.
“We support Labour’s drive to reform permitted development to prevent low quality conversions and will work with them to achieve this,” he concluded.