'Concern' in Wakefield over plans to make it easier for developers to build new homes

Fears have been expressed about the future of housing standards in Wakefield, amid a proposed relaxation of planning laws.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 12:30 pm

The government announced an overhaul of the system last month, with local councils potentially having fewer powers to block planning applications for new homes.

It followed a hotly disputed claim by Boris Johnson that "newt counting" was holding back the UK economy.

Local authorities across the UK have criticised the proposals while even some Tory MPs have suggested the changes could lead to "the slums of tomorrow" being built.

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The government's proposed changes to planning laws are still subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

The government insists the overhaul is needed to meet demand for homes and help rebuild the economy.

Speaking at a climate change scrutiny meeting on Monday, Wakefield Council officer Neville Ford said there was unease about the proposals.

He said: "As officers we're concerned by some of these changes the government's introducing over permitted development - the ability for example to change office developments and industrial buildings into residential properties.

"It's a much bigger problem elsewhere but I think we can anticipate we'll have developers wanting to take advantage of what they're able to do in the Wakefield district."

Committee chair and Wakefield East councillor Olivia Rowley said she was concerned that the district could end up with "windowless flats" as a result of the changes, adding: "I'm concerned about the way businesses can be transferred into housing and HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) can be changed.

"In my ward there's a lot of housing that's sub-standard."

Mr Ford said that the council would still have some influence over the design and layout of proposed homes to ensure they meet safety standards.

Local Democracy Reporting Service