Tory “red tape” slashing has created homes the size of Boris Johnson’s car with no windows, a damning report for the government has found.
The scathing verdict on Tory planning reforms exposes the grim conditions forced on people in “permitted development” homes.
Tory ministers have been reforming planning rules since 2013 to extend rights to convert buildings, like office or storage units, into homes without full planning permission.
But campaigners warn the system opens the floodgates to “slums” barely big enough to swing a cat.
The report by UCL and the University of Liverpool was commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and slipped out just before MPs’ summer recess.
It found just 22% of permitted development homes would meet national space standards – compared to 73% through planning permission.
The smallest were just 16 square metres, and ten of them had no windows at all.
Many permitted development homes had layouts that “reduce access to natural light”.
And even of those with windows, nearly 72% only had windows facing in one direction – compared to 30% of homes created through planning permission.
Permitted schemes were eight times more likely to be in business or industrial parks – some of which had “extremely poor” services for residents.
The report said: “It is the combination of very small internal space standards, a poor mix of unit types, lack of access to private amenity space / outdoor space, and inadequate natural light which can provide such a poor residential experience in some permitted development units.”
Clive Betts, chairman of the Housing Committee, raised the tiny “slums” in a plea to Boris Johnson at PMQs today.
He told the PM 16 square metre studio flats were the size of “the base of the ministerial limousine that he gets driven around in each day”.
Yet Boris Johnson claimed: “We will ensure that we not only build back better and more beautifully, but that we give people the space they need to live and grow in the homes that we will build.”
And the government has pledged to cut even more “red tape” due to coronavirus – including reforms announced this week.
The PM’s spokesman claimed the next round of changes will “help to safely transform new buildings into high-quality homes and give some much-needed additional space for those with families.
“What we’re not going to do is sacrifice quality and safety standards.”
But local government bodies warned the report found what they’d been warning of all along.
Mark Crane of the District Councils’ Network said: “This report raises a number of concerns which we share over homes created under permitted development, in particular around quality of life and people’s well-being.
“Communities do not have a say over permitted development conversions, and developers are also not required to provide vital local infrastructure and affordable homes.
“For this reason permitted development should be ended, and the full planning process followed.”
David Renard of the Local Government Association added: “This independent report rightly backs our long-standing concerns.
“Developers must no longer be allowed to bypass the planning system.”
An MHCLG spokesman said: “Permitted development rights make an important contribution to building the homes our country needs and are crucial to helping our economy recover from the pandemic by supporting our high streets to adapt and encouraging the regeneration of disused buildings.
“This independent research shows on average there was little difference in the appearance, energy performance or access to services between schemes delivered through permitted development and those that were granted full planning permission.
“All developers should meet the highest possible design standards and the changes we are making will continue to improve the quality of these homes, including new requirements for natural light and checks to ensure changes are in keeping with the character of their local area.”