THE Housing Secretary has announced sweeping reforms to the planning system in a bid to deliver 300,000 new homes a year in England.

Robert Jenrick, secretary for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), aims to speed up the process to meet its housing target, which it set in 2017 and is yet to achieve.

The ambitious target was last seen in 1969, according to housing charity Shelter, when councils and housing associations built 47% of new homes.

Mr Jenrick said the biggest overhaul of planning policy in England in decades, unveiled on Thursday, will make the planning system “much simpler and faster” than the current model.

He said it currently takes seven years to produce a local plan, and five years to “get spades in the ground”.

And he insisted local people will be able to make “a meaningful contribution”, despite confirming there is nothing that can be done to halt disliked projects once an area is designated for growth.

Data from the MHCLG showed more than 240,000 new homes had been built last year, the highest number in 30 years.

However, despite 90% of applications being approved by councils, the Local Government Association said more than a million homes given planning permission over the last decade are yet to be built.

The new process will involve quicker development on land which has been designated “for renewal”, with a “permission in principle” approach that the MHCLG said will balance the need for proper checks with a speedier way of working.

The other two categories will see land designated for growth where new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically to empower development, while areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will be protected.

The reforms have caused unease within Tory ranks, with fears that local concerns will be ignored in order to build more quickly.

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The Local Government Association’s Conservative chairman James Jamieson said: “Any loss of local control over developments would be a concern.”

There are also concerns that extension to permitted development rights, which allows developers to convert offices into homes without planning permission, could lead to a generation of slums, which Mr Jenrick had rubbished as “complete nonsense”.

The LGA reported that since 2015, more than 54,000 new homes were converted from offices under permitted development, which has potentially led to the loss of 13,540 affordable homes.