Planning deregulation measures rushed through parliament this summer could lead to low-quality housing and a proliferation of takeaways, a House of Lords committee which scrutinises legal changes has said.
In a report published this week, the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee questioned whether recent expansions to permitted development rights (PDR) were implemented appropriately by ministers.
The government unveiled its intentions to widen significantly PDR rules allowing developers to deliver homes on certain sites without full planning permission in late June.
Despite major concerns voiced by housing and planning sector bodies, secondary legislation to effect the changes was first tabled just three weeks later on the last day before parliament rose for the summer recess.
The new regulations – which mean a wider range of conversions will be subject to PDR as well as the demolition and rebuilding of vacant buildings as housing – came into force on 1 September, the same day the summer recess ended.
PDR has been criticised for delivering small, poor-quality homes – including by two separate government-commissioned reports.
Councils have also argued that it leads to losses of potential affordable housing, with the Local Government Association claiming that developers used the PDR loophole to dodge building more than 13,500 affordable homes in the past four years.
The lords committee raised concerns about the latest “substantial and wide-ranging” expansions of PDR rules.
It said it recognises that the measures are intended to speed up housing delivery and support economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it also raised fears the measures could “lead to the construction of low-quality housing, an increased concentration of restaurants, including fast food restaurants which impact the health of local residents, and reduce the ability of local authorities to shape the character of their high streets”.
The report questioned “whether it would have been more appropriate” to take forward the PDR expansions in a future planning bill, “enabling parliament to scrutinise the changes more fully”.
Committee member Lord German said: “These instruments are deregulatory in effect and make substantial and wide-ranging changes to planning law.
“While we acknowledge that the government’s intention is to encourage economic growth and address housing shortages, concerns have been raised that these changes could result in low-quality housing and reduce the ability of local authorities to shape the character of their high streets; and the growth of fast-food restaurants in some communities may have local health implications for its residents as well.
“We are in no doubt that the House [of Lords] will wish to press the minister for an assurance that the concerns raised have been considered and that safeguards are in place to ensure that they are fully met.
“Given the significance of these changes, we have also queried whether they should have been implemented through primary rather than secondary legislation and therefore afforded the much more thorough scrutiny to which bills are subject.”
The House of Lords – which can refer legislation back to the Commons but not directly alter it – has until October to raise issues with the changes.