IMLA: Planning reforms will be key in strengthening economy

Jessica Bird

July 1, 2020

kate davies imla

In a speech on 30 June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced ‘radical’ upcoming planning reforms, which has been welcomed by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA). 

Commenting on the upcoming changes, Kate Davies (pictured), executive director of IMLA, said: “A strong and active housing market will be hugely important in getting the UK economy back to strength in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

“IMLA therefore welcomes these latest changes to planning regulations from the government.

“There is a shortage of suitable housing in this country to meet the demand and varied needs of our population.

“These new measures will go some way to enabling better use of vacant properties and publicly owned land in order to facilitate the development of more homes.”

Planning reforms will particularly help to address the issue of vacant office space and commercial properties, which is only likely to increase as the shape of the working world changes post-COVID-19.

Davies continued: “Many commercial properties have been sitting vacant for years in areas where there is significant demand for housing, and it’s likely the number of vacant commercial offices will increase in the wake of the crisis, with more businesses working remotely or needing smaller spaces.

“It’s quite right that landlords and developers should be able to adapt these properties into homes, provided this is done responsibly and in a way which ensures quality and sustainability.”

However, planning reforms alone will not be enough to get the housing market back to top form, according to Davies.

She says: “The Help to Buy equity loan scheme is currently due to be changed in 2021 and phased out completely in 2023.

“An extension of the current scheme would prove helpful to developers and buyers, who will be playing ‘catch up’ after the delays caused by the pandemic and lockdown.

“COVID-19 quite rightly needs to be the government’s priority at the moment, but when the dust settles the spotlight will need to be firmly on working together with industry to build a long-term housing strategy.

“We are looking forward to the update from the Chancellor next week, for which we are hoping to see more detail about the government’s plans.”

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