Thursday 6 August 2020 3:50 pm

Property industry reacts to planning system overhaul

The government has launched a consultation on England’s planning system, as it seeks to slash red tape for new developments. 

In the planning White Paper, published this morning, the government said it wanted to cut the number of planning cases that are overturned at appeal by creating a “clearer, rules-based system”. 

Read more: UK looks to build upward with new planning laws

Every area will have a local plan in place, up from just 50 per cent of local areas that currently have a plan to build more homes.

The existing Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy will be replaced with a new Infrastructure Levy. The new levy will be a fixed proportion of the value of the development, above a set threshold, to help deliver more affordable housing. 

Under the new plans, land will be designated as either for growth, for renewal or for protection. 

In “renewal” areas, councils will look more favourably on new developments, and new homes, hospitals and schools will be given the green light automatically in “growth” areas. 

The government also confirmed that its First Homes ownership scheme will prove a 30 per cent discount to first-time buyers, key workers and local people. 

Read more: Robert Jenrick faces fresh questions over new planning row

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “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.”

‘Radical change’ to the planning system

London First programme Director Sarah Bevan said: “The White Paper’s proposals are a radical change to our planning system. The move towards a zoning approach designating land for growth, renewal or protection has the potential to cut red tape, helping to boost housebuilding and renew our commercial districts. 

“However, moving these ideas from paper to practical change, while maintaining the quality of development, will be a challenge and recent history is littered with examples where simplifying planning measures have not lived up to the name.”    

Read more: Shard developer accused of ‘vandalising’ Bermondsey property to earn planning permission

British Property Federation chief executive Melanie Leech added: “The UK planning system has needed reform for some time, and the government’s intention to simplify the process has the potential to accelerate the delivery of new homes, and town and city regeneration – much-needed investment into communities across the UK, which will underpin our nation’s post-Covid recovery.”

‘Deeper thinking required’

Royal Town Planning Institute chief executive Victoria Hills said: “Deeper thinking is required about the function of the housing market – planning is not the cause of low build-out numbers.

“Over the years hundreds of thousands of permission have been granted for new homes that have never been built. There is a problem with the delivery model and I am not convinced that these reforms sufficiently address that.

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“Many of these proposals will require not only serious time and financial resources but in some cases primary legislation. There is a risk that development and house-building could stall while this is implemented.”

Centre for Policy Studies head of policy Alex Morton said: “More broadly, these planning reforms are an intelligent first step in reform, but much more detail will be needed and many vested interests will try to slow and stop reform.

“We look forward to engaging on the detail and urge others to approach these reforms with a positive and supportive attitude – the housing crisis is one of the biggest issues facing our country and this radical paper is to be welcomed.’ 

Local government pressure

British Property Federation chief executive Melanie Leech added: “The proposed reforms would however frontload the system, with more pressure on local authorities to provide leadership, vision and context for investors, developers and their communities. 

“While this is right and vital, local authorities are under pressure like never before with the impact of Covid-19 and they will need significant support and resource to achieve these ambitions set out today – to ensure pace of delivery is equally complemented by quality, where new development will contribute to our country’s economic, social and environmental objectives.