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Labour vows to block developers building ‘slums’ from offices

Shadow housing secretary John Healey says the ‘permitted development’ rule leads to the creation of new slums.

Under the changes developers can bypass the normal planning process by converting commercial spaces into housing (PA file)
Under the changes developers can bypass the normal planning process by converting commercial spaces into housing (PA file)

Labour has said it will scrap a “get-out clause” which allows developers to avoid their obligations to provide decent social housing, putting up new “slums” instead.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the “permitted development” rule – intended to boost housebuilding – was being used to get round requirements to provide affordable housing and meet basic quality rules.

Under the changes, introduced in 2013, developers can bypass the normal planning process by converting commercial spaces into housing without the consent of the council and local community.

Conservative-permitted development rules have created a get-out clause for developers to dodge affordable homes requirements and build slum housing. John Healey

Mr Healey said the result was the creation of poor quality, “rabbit hutch” flats, with 42,000 new housing units converted from offices since 2015.

Over the same period, he said research by the Local Government Association found that over 10,000 affordable homes had been lost as a result of permitted development.

Mr Healey said: “Conservative-permitted development rules have created a get-out clause for developers to dodge affordable homes requirements and build slum housing.

“To fix the housing crisis, we need more genuinely affordable, high-quality homes. This Conservative housing free-for-all gives developers a free hand to build what they want but ignore what local communities need.

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Mr Healey said the result was the creation of poor quality, “rabbit hutch” flats (PA)

“Labour will give local people control over the housing that gets built in their area and ensure developers build the low-cost, high-quality homes that the country needs.”Conservative Party vice-chairman for local government Marcus Jones said: “Labour’s plans would cut housebuilding and put a stop to people achieving home ownership.

“We are backing permitted development rights which are converting dormant offices into places families can call home.”

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