By Harry Scoffin
42 MPs have endorsed Sir Keir Starmer’s move to force the repeal of a controversial new law allowing block owners to add two storeys without planning permission.
The permitted development right, which LKP has criticised for gifting freeholders a £41bn windfall while fettering flat owners, was rushed through days before MPs broke for summer recess and without a vote in Parliament.
The Labour leader’s early day motion has attracted support across all corners of his party, boasting signatures from ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell and other leftwing MPs sympathetic to his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, such as Rebecca Long-Bailey, who he sacked in June, and Apsana Begum, whose Poplar and Limehouse constituency has the second highest number of leaseholds in the country.
It has been sponsored by Nick Brown, who has been the chief whip for every Labour leader since Gordon Brown, alongside shadow housing secretary Debbonaire Thangam, shadow housing and planning minister Mike Amesbury, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed, and shadow minister for local government Kate Hollern.
LKP urges readers to get their elected representatives to endorse the parliamentary petition.
There have been a number of criticisms from across the sector about the rule change and there is an awareness the existing protections for leaseholders are inadequate and that the previous regime allowed for a number of poor quality developments, which have led to a number of difficulties for the leaseholders and residents on site.
Leaseholders at one prime London block have told LKP their period building has never been the same since the freehold owner pressed ahead with an incongruous and bulky upward extension which, despite having council sign-off, has allegedly resulted in subsidence and intermittent leaking.
Meanwhile, landlord and tenant solicitor Giles Peaker criticised the new regulation to enable automatic rooftop extensions for freeholders.
In a series of tweets, he explained a case where he was representing leaseholders whose apartments were being repeatedly flooded by properties on a new penthouse floor, but where the building owner was using tripartite leases and an intermediate landlord to evade responsibility for many years.
Sir Keir’s formal demand to annul the freeholder-friendly statutory instrument that was bundled together with emergency coronavirus regulations in August has also found the backing of LKP patron Sir Peter Bottomley, who first drew parliamentary attention to the subject with his now-rescinded early day motion.
The father of the House of Commons is also joined by former Green party leader Caroline Lucas and Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru MPs.
It is anticipated that the new Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, who also co-chairs the APPG on leasehold reform, will add his voice to the chorus of opposition – and instruct his party to formally support the initiative.
Members of the House of Lords registered opposition to the planning giveaway last month, with crossbench chartered surveyor Lord Thurlow warning of botched rooftop extensions and a ground rents-style backlash from consumers.
A professor of law, the former Welsh Tory leader Lord Bourne highlighted the adverse impacts the planning deregulation would have on the enfranchisement rights of leaseholders:
“This provision gives a windfall profit, as it were, to the freeholders in added value, but for leaseholders, who might seek to purchase their [leasehold] interest from the landlord, it will inflate the price. It also means that any appropriate windfall profit for a particular property will not help the leaseholder, only the freeholder.”
While Sir Keir’s early day motion is not binding on government, it puts down a marker on leasehold and commonhold reform.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that The Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 632), dated 23 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 24 June 2020, be annulled.