London Property Alliance calls for extension to length of permissions

A consortium of central London developers and landlords has called for government to rip up planning rules in order to support the recovery of residential development in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The London Property Alliance has written to housing secretary Robert Jenrick calling for a two-year extension to existing planning permissions in order to ensure they don’t expire during the current enforced lockdown of the industry.

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Residential developers in London want to make sure planning permissions don’t expire without work starting because of the current coronavirus lockdown in the UK

In addition, the group, which represents owners, investors, professional advisors and developers of real estate in central London, called for a re-introduction of flexibilities, last seen during the global financial crisis, that enable developers to renegotiate section 106 obligations such as the provision of affordable housing.

The letter also says the government should allow flexibility for payment of Community Infrastructure Levy contributions while construction is on hold and instruct lenders and insurers to give financial headroom to landlords who may be unable to collect rent from tenants.

The letter, signed by Charles Begley, executive director of the London Property Alliance, as well as executives from the Westminster Property Association and City Property Association, is the latest in a series of calls for the government to take measures to enable the industry to recover quickly once lockdown measures are eased.

A series of public and private sector bodies, including the British Property Federation, Home Builders’ Federation, Royal Town Planning Institute and the Local Government Association have all joined calls to extend existing permissions that are in danger of expiring during lockdown.

But extending planning permissions from their standard three-year duration can only be done by primary legislation, which is currently not possible as parliament is in recess.

The call for the reintroduction of flexibility around planning obligations is likely to be controversial, with many crediting it with allowing much lower rates of affordable housing to be built in the wake of the credit crunch.

The government has so far said nothing about further changes to planning rules and it is not yet clear what form public sector intervention may take.