Harrow MPs respond to planning law changes on unused buildings

A Conservative MP criticised recent changes to planning laws that mean unused buildings can be demolished for redevelopment without full planning applications.

Bob Blackman, who represents Harrow East, said it could lead to the creation of “substandard” housing if developers do not carry out full checks at potentially dangerous sites.
The Government announced changes to planning laws, which come into effect next month, to help revitalise run down areas and reduce pressures to build on green belt land.

Homeowners will also be able to add up to two storeys to their properties through a fast-tracking process to provide “more living space for growing families”.

But Mr Blackman said he was worried that any potential reduction in detailed checks could result in major problems.
He said: “I have serious concerns regarding the recently announced relaxation of the planning laws.
“Such relaxation would open the door for potential substandard housing which would pose serious threats to its potential residents.

“In Harrow East we have a number of unused buildings which have been empty for a number of years and have been vastly unchecked for structural and environmental issues.”

His colleague in Harrow West, Labour MP Gareth Thomas, agreed that providing good quality homes must be the focus for the housing industry going forward.

He said he appreciates any move that can support it but urged the Government to protect his constituents from those only focused on profit.

He said: “I’m all for boosting house building, but it needs to be the right kind of high-quality housing and which makes our community look and feel better. “Recent government planning changes have been a boon for developers keen to make a fast pound who are otherwise indifferent to the needs of the people of Harrow.”

The Government said the changes are part of its ambitions to “get Britain building again”, with plans for more affordable homes and funding for small developers. It added buildings which form “part of the fabric of areas”, such as pubs, libraries, and village shops, will not be covered by the new flexibilities.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are reforming the planning system and cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing. “These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high quality homes at the heart of their communities.

“It will mean that families can add up to two storeys to their home, providing much needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows.”

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