Unlocking ‘rigid’ planning system could spark modular construction housing revolution

Brad Ryan, Senior PR Coordinator Brad Ryan UKIMEA Press Office,London
6 June 2019

A new report by Arup outlines the key reforms needed to the UK’s planning system to facilitate the widescale use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to help deliver the large number of new homes the country needs.

While research to date has focused primarily on the financial and technical barriers to MMC adoption, Arup has found evidence that the planning system is too rigid and unaccommodating in driving MMC forward on a meaningful scale.

The report - How Modern Methods of Construction can deliver ‘more’ through the planning system - outlines opportunities, actions and benefits that could help local planning authorities and users of the planning system reap the rewards available. They include: 

  • Smoothing the development management process – including training across local planning authorities on MMC and its benefits, as well as ensuring local planning policies support the use of MMC, with requirements for developers to show that they have considered the methods in proposals.

  • Elevating the role of design and responding to place – changing perceptions and promoting an awareness of the design flexibility MMC offers. This could include the appointment of an MMC design champion by Homes England to drive the agenda.

  • Harnessing digital innovation – making use of technology – such as Virtual Reality. BIM and digital pattern books – to test MMC viability, customise design, showcase products and increase efficiency in decision-making.

  • Opportunities for partnerships to implement MMC at scale – partnerships will be key to MMC success. All parties working in the built environment- local authorities, developers, planners and public bodies – need to work together to facilitate this.

The research, informed by interviews with leading professionals at the forefront of MMC, is part of Arup’s Solving the Housing Crisis Series and includes a range of contributions from MHCLG, Homes England and the GLA.

There’s evidence which shows the current planning system cannot deliver MCC at scale, nor does it understand the opportunities it brings.
Our research shows 265,000 extra homes could be built in the next ten years if one-third of new homes built used modern methods of construction. Developers, local authorities and Homes England must now work together to change attitudes and introduce a streamlined planning process that supports innovative housebuilding.
Vicky Evans Vicky Evans UKMEA Residential Business Leader

Housing being built using modern methods of construction (MMC) Photo credit: Graven Hill Housing being built using modern methods of construction (MMC) Photo credit: Graven Hill
Housing being built using modern methods of construction (MMC) Photo credit: Graven Hill

We see a future system where paper-driven planning applications are replaced with designs direct from digital platforms, selected by the buyer and pre-agreed with the local council, and once consented, are sent straight to the production line. ”

katie kerr Katie Kerr Arup Town Planner and co-author