Yesterday, Robert Jenrick announced measures to help the development industry boost housing delivery. One of these was the widely anticipated automatic extension to planning permissions that are due to expire this year. According to MHCLG, permissions that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year will now see their permission extended to 1 April 2021. The Government estimates that by the end of this month alone, more than 400 residential permissions providing more than 24,000 new homes would have expired since lock lockdown began.

I offered my thoughts on whether I thought such a move would necessarily translate to the delivery of more housing in April and whilst I continue to be sceptic about the extent to which many of these permissions would have been implemented in a non COVID-19 world anyway, it is, of course, a welcome announcement and any measures introduced to assist the development industry in such unprecedented times must only be applauded.

By April 2021, it will be interesting to see how many of these 24,000 new homes have been implemented. Both local planning authorities and housebuilders will be monitoring this with a close eye as it will undoubtedly have direct implications on past housing delivery and future five year housing land supply. It will have far reaching consequences and influence future decision-making, particularly as it will often be the determining factor of whether or not NPPF Paragraph 11 and the tilted balance is engaged.

In the meantime, these measures do not quite amount to job done for the Government. In my view, it should now turn its attention to the next wave of permissions which covers those that would not have expired by the end of the year but for which implementation due to COVID-19 has been disrupted or derailed indefinitely. Extending the lifetime of these permissions might only be one measure and I would encourage the Government to be bold in its approach, particularly as I believe this is where the impacts of COVID-19 on housing delivery will really be tested. In particular supply is only one half of the equation and Government encouragement for demand through positive economic measures will equally be critical.