Future slums?

The government may cause some problems

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Will Boris Johnson's plan to "build, build, build" lead to slums?

By Joe Harker

Boris Johnson hopes the UK will be able to "build, build, build" its way out of the pandemic-induced recession.

His government has relaxed planning restrictions, meaning buildings can be redeveloped and revamped to adapt to a world changed by the coronavirus.

One of the main changes the pandemic has caused is a huge increase in working from home, leading many employers to wonder if they really need all that office space they're paying for.

Offices and shops could be converted into more homes, and done at a much faster pace with fewer planning hoops to jump through, but could this cause problems?

The Claim:

The prime minister said it was important to plan for the future so that the economy could bounce back as strong as possible.

He wants people to have the power to spend money if they really want to revamp properties which have been left empty and aren't due to be taken over by anyone else soon.

Lots of shops have been empty for a while and office space isn't exactly going at a premium, so if people want to invest in refurbishing them into houses or flats then the government doesn't want to stop them.

It could help give the high street a new purpose and at least do away with the depressing sight of boarded up shop windows and empty office blocks which just sit there.

Johnson wants the nation to "build, build, build", he's certainly made that easier.

The Counter Claim:

However, careful attention should be paid to the type of accommodation being touted as a replacement to all that empty office space.

The Ministry of Housing published a report sounding a warning that condemned the relaxation of planning rules as leading to poor quality homes.

The fear is that the relaxation of planning rules will lead to a slew of tiny flats with barely any natural light which are on the cusp of being unfit for human habitation, in other words: "future slums".

It would be a disaster for the UK if it became flooded with horrendous quality housing which deteriorated in quality quickly.

It also goes against the notion that more people working from home will mean they would want homes with a little bit more space.

The Facts:

The practice of permitted development allows for building in certain areas without planning permission.

A study of homes built between 2015 and 2018 found that only 22 per cent of dwellings built under permitted development met nationally described space standards, compared to 73 per cent of homes built with planning permission.

Only 3.5 per cent of them were built with access to an outdoor space, while many were studio flats with as little as 16 square metres of space.

Since 2015 there have been more than 60,000 flats built in England under planned development, with around 90 per cent coming from converted offices.

Poor quality accommodation has been linked to a number of health issues, both physical and mental.

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