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Launderette-to-home conversions won’t wash away the housing crisis

By Andrew Teacher

A new housing bill published today will allow developers to convert laundrettes to homes without planning permission.

Liverpool, Manchester and Hackney in east London are amongst the country’s Hotpoint hotspots, according to official data.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis today announced changes to permitted development rights (PDR) as part of a housing and planning bill. The PDR changes – which also allow old office blocks to be converted or knocked down and rebuilt – are designed to encourage thousands of new homes to be built.

First introduced in May 2013, the expansion of PDR rules is broadly a good thing – although various London councils took the government to the High Court to try and block the measures.

Nearly 4,000 PDR applications were approved between April 2014 and June this year.

Figures suggest that over 550 launderettes remain in major English cities, with 422 in London alone. With washing machine ownership reaching saturation point – at 97 per cent in 2012, up from 95 per cent in 2005 – demand for launderettes has fallen.

Still, with such small numbers maybe ministers should come clean that building millions of homes is going to require slightly more wholesale changes – such as unlocking the green belt?

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