Pressing the Planning Accelerator

Following Queens Speech measures to simplify and speed up the planning process, the Government has now detailed plans for developers to get automatic planning permission to build on disused industrial sites in England. The plans come as house building figures fell by the sharpest decline in almost four years. Time for more effective medicine?

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has expressed the urgency to accelerate house building through ministerial powers announced in July 2015 to seize disused land, while major housing projects could be fast-tracked and rules on extensions in London relaxed.

The government sees housing building as the key to greater productivity in the economy. If you live and work close by, such as on remediated brownfield land in the inner urban areas, then workers could be more productive.

More local development “dynamism”

Under the new proposals, which require MP approval, automatic planning permission would be granted on all “suitable” brownfield sites under a new “zonal” system. Planning permission to extend properties to the height of their neighbours in London would “add dynamism” to the developer market. Others could rightly argue that this could be a free for all, radically raising the risk of neighbour disputes claiming loss of amenity or value.

The Mayors of London and Manchester will be given wide ranging planning powers, including compulsory purchase powers to allow more brownfield land to be made available for development.

There would also be new sanctions for councils that do not deal with planning applications quickly enough, and the government would be able to intervene in councils’ local development plans.

Delays, prejudice and inefficiency have plagued the local planning system, with councils blocking and sitting on many decisions that have hindered satisfying local housing demand.

Green belt not at risk?

While Mr Javid insisted that no Green Belt land was needed to satisfy demand, analysts question whether there is enough viable brownfield land to do the job too. Also, we know from experience of land buying that developers need economic viability and brownfield sites can be too costly to remediate properly – and all the risks lie with them.

Our money is on continued cherry picking of viable brownfield sites by developers, protracted enquiries and neighbourhood tension over premier building plots. What is clear is that the Government has lost patience with council planners and the dam may be bursting on planning rules and therefore greater development risks for homebuyers and owners alike.

Our DevAssess report identifies development risk and opportunity by analysing the changing face of land use zoning, together with the pattern of planning approvals in and around a client’s chosen property. As pressure builds, so will concern from solicitors’ clients that these risks are clearly identified as part of the conveyancing searches.

For more information on the DevAssess report call us on 01342 890010 or email [email protected]

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