Consultation To Reform Planning System For The Future

Today, 6 August, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that an overhaul of the planning system is needed, to deliver “high-quality, sustainable homes communities need” and that need will be at the heart of “significant reforms” to housing policies.

Stating the current situation is “sluggish” in providing homes and ineffective in obligating developers to properly fund the infrastructure to support communities, the changes plan to transform the system.

Allowing more development to take place on brownfield sites, leaving valued green spaces and Green Belt “to be protected for future generation”. It is also planned that local community agreement will be at the centre of proposals, be being consulted at the very beginning of the planning process.

Under the plans, land will be designated into one of three categories – for growth, for renewal or for protection. Communities will set the agenda for their own areas, with the categories for all land across England decided through local consensus.

Local authorities will remain in charge of the decisions regarding Green Belts, so that they may continue to protect and enhance these important areas for generations to come.

Placing Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) builders as key players in getting the country building with an aim to drive up the economy, the changes will give them “a major boost” as well as lead to housebuilding that is “beautiful and builds on local heritage and character”. The proportion of new homes built by SME builders has dropping dramatically to only 12% compared to 40% 30 years ago. A recent study highlighted that it is smaller firms that face challenges as a result of the current system, due to its complexities, associated risks, delays and costs.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

“Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need; it takes 7 years to agree local housing plans and 5 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, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country.”

The new process will be a clearer, rules-based system, with a new simpler national levy for developer contributions, both of which have the aim of reducing the delays often found by applications being appealed, and negotiations on how much developers should be contribute to infrastructure. The Ministry of Housing aims to cut the current time it takes to develop and agree local housing times, from 7 years to 30 months.

A new and simpler system of developer contributions will also ensure private firms play their part in funding the new infrastructure and affordable homes that should accompany new building. The revenues will be spent locally on infrastructure and discounted homes for local, first-time buyers.

Helen Evans, Chief Executive of Network Homes and chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations said:

“The country needs many more affordable homes and the planning system makes an important contribution towards that. I strongly welcome the intention of government’s proposed reforms to increase transparency and certainty to help increase the delivery of affordable homes.”

A new fast track system will be created for beautiful buildings and establishing local design guidance to preserve beautiful communities, as well as ensuring all new streets are lined with trees. Each new home will also be “zero carbon ready” without the need to be retrofitted to achieve the target of zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:

“Changes to the planning system will help ramp up the availability of homes in places where people need them most. These reforms will allow housebuilders to get to work, supporting supply chains, and more flexible, local labour markets around the country.

“Delivering high-quality, safe and environmentally friendly new homes is critical for meeting our climate targets while accelerating regional growth and tackling inequality. Affordability of future housing supply must remain at the forefront of these efforts.

“With coronavirus continuing to cast a shadow of uncertainty over the economy, a more flexible planning system must give local authorities and businesses scope to deliver the homes people need in the short term while laying the groundwork for sustainable communities for decades to come.”

James Thomson, CEO of Gleeson Homes, said:

“We strongly support the reform of our historic planning system, to bring it up to speed and ensure it is fit for purpose for the modern-day. In particular, we welcome initiatives to make it more transparent, speed up planning where appropriate and has a presumption towards development rather than against. The renewed commitment to building 300,000 new homes a year is an important goal and will be aided by these new initiatives.

“At Gleeson, our focus is building low-cost quality homes in areas of regeneration and on brownfield land. The permission in principle initiative will help us to fast-track hundreds of new affordable homes for first-time buyers and essential workers on lower incomes who are eager to get a foot on the property ladder. Not only will these reforms go some way to supporting local SME housebuilders and their supply chains, but they will also help to ‘level-up’ the country through increased infrastructure investment, bringing jobs and homes to the north.

“It’s also promising to see the government renew its commitment to building well designed places for people to live and work, rather than just schemes that focus solely on density often to the detriment of place.”

Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, comments:

“Few areas of the industry are calling out for transformation more than the UK’s planning system which places a greater emphasis on documents rather than data and local officials’ knowledge of the areas they directly manage.

“Covid 19 has acted as catalyst for the digitisation of several areas of the property sector and the planning sector is no exception. The pandemic has highlighted the need for digital access from anywhere.

“Now is the time to put data at the heart of the planning processes. By enabling widespread access to interactive maps and instant access to land and property data, we can ensure that the risks are properly assessed even before a brick has been laid.

“This will in turn lead to cost efficiencies for the sector while also meaning we can more swiftly and efficiently meet the housing needs of the nation both now and in the future.”

Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark comments:

“It’s positive to see more steps being taken to support the housing market during this time. It is particularly important that as we try to boost the economy, we build a greater supply of affordable houses that can rejuvenate areas across the country most affected by this crisis.

“However, it is important that any changes to the planning process help to improve transport, infrastructure and develop communities and places where people want to live. By doing this the Government will help to ease the pressure of the supply of homes to ensure that the property market drives forward the UK’s economic recovery.”

Jenrick also confirmed that the First Homes scheme will allow local people, key workers and first-time buyers a 30% discount on newly built homes. Future buyers will also continue to benefit as the discount will be locked into the home.

Following the publication of Planning for the future, the government will now consult with planners, lawyers and local government experts on the proposals, as well as interest groups and residents. The full consultation document is available at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

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