Government announces consultations on measures to improve the property sector

The Government has recently announced proposed consultations on a number of measures to address (among other things) perceived failings in the housing sector and to support new development. New proposed measures include:

  • The creation of a new ombudsman scheme to focus on new homes, with a view to ensuring that buyers of newly built homes can be confident that they will receive the quality of build and finish they expect. The proposal is that all new developers will be obliged to belong to the new homes ombudsman scheme, and the ombudsman will “protect the interests of homebuyers and hold developers to account when things go wrong”. This follows an initial enquiry in 2016 which reported a high level of frustration and disappointment from buyers of new homes, both in terms of the number of defects that new homes often had on handover, and the problems they encountered in getting them fixed;
  • With a view to continuing the Government’s stance of ensuring more new homes are delivered, there will be further changes to the planning system to support development. In particular, there is a proposal to introduce a new permitted development right allowing property owners to extend certain buildings upwards whilst maintaining the character of residential and conservation areas and safeguarding people’s privacy.
    There is also a proposal to give local authorities more flexibility to dispose of surplus land.
    It is certainly the case that the trend in the supply of housing continues to increase: the most recent Housing Supply report issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued on 15 November 2018 confirms that the annual housing supply in England amounted to 222,190 net additional dwellings in the year 2017 to 2018, being a 2% increase on the previous year, and continues an upward trend in the housing supply which started in 2013-2014 (when only 134,000 new houses were added).
  • The progression of the proposed ban on the use of combustible materials on external walls of high-rise buildings. The ban will apply to all high-rise buildings that contain flats, as well as hospitals, residential care homes and student accommodation above 18 metres. This ban will be introduced by way of changes to building regulations and will limit the use of certain available materials. The Government originally indicated it would consult on this issue in May 2018 following criticism of the Hackitt review in failing to recommend such a ban. It is estimated the ban will cost £7.5 million to £11 million per annum.

Luke Cain is a solicitor in the Property department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.

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