Plans to turbo-charge housebuilding on brownfield sites so the country can tackle the housing crisis without concreting over the green belt will be unveiled this week.
New laws will speed up the process for turning shops into homes. It is hoped that under-used office sites and former department stores will become housing under the “brownfield-first” policy.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “This Government has a plan to help people achieve the dream of home ownership and grow the economy, with 2.5million homes delivered since 2010 – and we are determined to go further. But we will not allow the countryside to be concreted over.
“Communities expect us to make use of empty properties or disused buildings, and redevelop existing derelict sites, before we consider building on other land.
“These changes would build tens of thousands more homes across the country, revitalising our towns and cities while protecting our precious green spaces.”
His department says the changes “mark a decisive shift away from the rise of developments on the edge of villages and in the green belt”.
Maxwell Marlow, of the Adam Smith Institute, said the new measures will “help us build 1.7million new homes out of the 4.3million we need”.
But he warned that “building on brownfield alone will not be the silver bullet which solves our housing crisis”.
He added: “Building on brownfield land should occur alongside building on the green belt – not instead of.”
Gavin Smart, chief executive of Chartered Institute of Housing, sounded a note of caution about allowing developments to bypass the usual planning process – saying this has “led to some incredibly poor-quality homes”.
He added that the “Government promises that there will be protections to prevent this are encouraging, but the detail here will be very important to not repeat these mistakes”.
Rico Wojtulewicz, of the National Federation of Builders, said: “If the Government wants to make ‘brownfield first’ a decent solution, it needs to demolish sites and rebuild them more densely. This will mean developments can provide housing and non-housing needs.
“If it doesn’t do this, we still won’t build enough houses, as there isn’t enough brownfield as it is, and ‘brownfield first’ will produce worse places to live.”