Government reconfirms direction of travel for planning policy but offers few new details

Since the Conservatives secured their majority in December 2019, the Government have consistently trailed that increasing the number of homes across the country and boosting housing supply is a key priority.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick today set out plans to reform the planning system to speed up development, encourage homes to be built more quickly and to facilitate greater involvement of communities who are affected by planning decisions. This builds on some of the announcements by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak in the Budget on 11 March, which included investment in affordable housing and development of brownfield sites.

How planning reform will likely happen will be set out in the Planning White Paper, which Jenrick says will come in ‘the Spring’. But the Government has revealed some of the measures to be included, indicating a clear priority is to make the planning system quicker and more efficient. It was announced that the White Paper will include reform of planning fees to increase the capacity and resources of local authorities to review and grant permissions to avoid delay – frequent point of frustration for developers.

Jenrick also announced measures to allow for automatic rebates of planning fees where applications are successful at appeal. This would place greater pressure on Planning Committees across the country to be far more considered about those schemes that they dislike or are unpopular but that are largely policy compliant.

The Government has also indicated that they want to see a step change in the production and adoption of Local Plans. They have set a deadline for all councils to have adopted their Local Plan by 2023, with Government intervention if they fail to do so – exactly how remains unsaid.

Other notable measures announced by the Secretary of State today include:

• Developers encouraged to build upwards and above stations.
• Proposals being considered to turn disused buildings into homes more quickly.
• Ensure that land for housing is actually delivered through greater transparency on land ownership.
• Expand the use of zoning tools to support local areas to simplify the process of granting planning permission for residential and commercial development.
• New map of brownfield sites to make the most of unused land.
• Improve the effectiveness and role of Compulsory Purchase Orders.

At no point did Jenrick mention of the Green Belt in his statement.

We will have to wait for the White Paper for further details and measures to be taken. The Government has been consistently keen to present their plans for reform of the planning system as radical, and certainly some of what has been trailed gives the sense that they are serious. The White Paper will confirm if the detail will live up to this.

Jimmy Coles by:
Jimmy Coles