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Britain targets red tape in bid to get more homes built

FILE PHOTO: Builders work at a Barratt housing development near Haywards Heath, Britain, February 20, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will set out proposals on Thursday to speed up homebuilding by cutting red tape and opening up the sector to smaller firms, in a bid to address a long-term housing shortage.

Successive Conservative-led governments have sought to reform the housing market by increasing supply, conscious of a generation of younger renters who have been priced out of owning their own homes in many parts of the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has set its sights on reforming the planning system to try to get more homes built.

“Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need,” housing minister Robert Jenrick said in a statement.

“We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.”

Data produced by Deloitte shows Britain has some of the lowest levels in Europe of housing development per capita, coupled with some of the highest house prices per square metre - particularly in London.

The policy paper will be published and subject to consultation with planners, lawyers, local government experts and residents’ groups before legislation is drawn up and then put before parliament.

At the heart of the reform is a plan to create three categories for land: growth, renewal or protection. Plans for growth areas will be automatically approved, and the ambition is to prevent drawn-out appeals against development.

Ministers hope this will encourage small and medium-sized developers, long seen as a way to efficiently increase homes through smaller-scale developments, back into the market following years of declining activity by such firms.

Reporting by William James and David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison

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