Government unveils plans to update the planning system – roundup

The government has launched ‘Planning for the Future’, a consultation on reforming the planning system.

The reforms would identify land under three categories – ‘Growth’ areas suitable for substantial development, ‘Renewal’ areas suitable for some development, and ‘Protected’ areas where development is restricted. Planning authorities would identify sub-areas in their Growth areas for self- and custom-build homes, so that more people can build their own homes.

To speed up building homes local housing plans would need to be developed and agreed in 30 months – down from the current seven years.

Every area of the UK would be required to have a local plan in place to build more homes. As it stands 50% of local areas have a plan to build more.

Local councils would consult at the planning application stage in a bid to streamline the process.

Robert Jenrick, housing secretary, said: “Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need; it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground.

“These once in a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country. We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.

“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth. Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system.”

In order to quicken up delays, the existing tests of of soundness, requirements for assessments (including on the environment and viability) and Duty to Cooperate would be abolished – replaced by a single statutory “sustainable development”.

The government said it would replace the current planning process with a ‘clearer, rules bases system’, given that around a third of planning cases that go to appeal are overturned at that stage.

The proposals have received a mixed response, as some think the reforms could lead to a slew of poor quality housing.

Others however agreed that the planning process is in need of change.

Roger Tustain, managing director, Nexus Planning, said: “The government’s objective, to speed up the delivery of development, has to be welcomed. The current system is slow, bureaucratic and too often frustrated by political influence. We should always be open to the potential for more radical changes to the planning system if this helps achieve this clearly desirable outcome.

“Whilst the ‘devil will be in the detail’, the proposals have the potential to expedite the delivery of growth with some of the ‘big’ strategic decisions, notably agreeing the amount of growth at district level, being set by national government.

“This matter alone will significantly speed up the process and provide a clear framework for growth at the local level. However, resourcing and funding the reformed system will continue to be a key challenge to better delivery.”

John Carter, commercial director for commercial real estate at Aldermore, said: “To help inform the housing strategy, we would encourage the government to consider the recommendations set out in the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for SME House Builders report on ways to improve the planning system in the UK.

“The APPG report shows how SME housebuilders are grappling with an overly complex and political planning system.

“We now need SMEs more than ever if the UK is to achieve the government’s target of building 300,000 new homes a year.

“Aldermore supports the report’s findings and hope they help change the planning system for the good of both SME housebuilders and the delivery of much needed homes in the UK.”