Planning for the Future

Following the Budget 2020, Housing Secretary of State Robert Jenrick made a statement to the House of Commons on Planning for the Future, setting out the Government’s proposals for the future of the planning system.

His statement confirmed the Government’s intention to release the so-called ‘Accelerated Planning’ White Paper in Spring 2020, which is promised to “lay the foundations for a modern, dramatically accelerated planning system”.

The statement was accompanied by a policy paper which gives us an indication of some of what we can expect to see in the much-anticipated White Paper.

At a glance

  • Accelerated planning: new fee structures will be introduced to improve resourcing of planning authorities and automatic rebates of fees will be given where planning applications are successfully appealed. There are also promises to ‘explore wider operations to encourage planning permissions to be built out more quickly’ and introduce further ‘support and expertise’ to local authorities in using CPO powers.
  • Brownfield land: the Government plans to help unlock brownfield land by launching a national map of brownfield sites next month. It will also conduct a call for proposals to seek evidence on building above stations in urban areas.
  • Permitted development: new permitted development rights will be introduced by summer 2020 to encourage building upwards and increasing density, including extending residential blocks by up to two storeys. The Government also plans to consult on new permitted development rights to allow vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings to be demolished and replaced with new residential units.
  • Local plans: the proposals require all local planning authorities to have up-to-date local plans by December 2023 and the Government is prepared to intervene where planning authorities do not meet this target.
  • Infrastructure: the Budget set out £1.1billion in funding for key infrastructure schemes, including new roads and transport links.

What does it mean for you?

Perhaps the most eye-catching proposals for planning authorities are those to ‘accelerate’ the planning system. The proposal for ‘automatic rebates’ confirms the Housing Secretary’s comments in oral evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee last October and many developers will welcome these.

Stretched planning authorities may be concerned by the proposals but commitments as to resourcing and fee structures may provide some comfort.

Another familiar proposal is that to improve the effectiveness and take up of CPO powers by local authorities. The policy paper does not provide much detail but previous evidence to the Select Committee suggests this could involve Homes England ‘task forces’ being on call to local authorities. Local authorities looking to use these powers should watch this space.

The new Brownfield land map is designed to encourage councils to make use of unused land. Councils in England are already under a duty to produce brownfield land registers, so the map will draw all the information from them together.  This is backed by a £400 million ‘Brownfield Housing Fund’ to bring this land back into use. With the Government reluctant to release Green Belt land for development but insistent on the need for more housing across the Country, it is evident that the emphasis for development will need to be on Brownfield sites.

New permitted development rights could impact local infrastructure. While the Government’s intention in allowing developers to build upwards is to ‘make the most of local infrastructure’ it remains to be seen whether or not the proposals will put pressure on local infrastructure and services in densely populated urban areas. Parking provision especially could cause problems for local authorities. Another concern with extending permitted development rights, especially for housing, is the lack of control that it gives to planning authorities over the design, quality and standard of those homes.

The Government’s 2023 deadline for all planning authorities to agree up-to-date local plans certainly adds a level of pressure, as does the ‘threat’ of Government intervention if this is not met. This should be a reminder to planning authorities to start thinking about its future needs and planning requirements now, as well as discussing with members.

Posted in Anna Sidebottom, Emily Knowles, Infrastructure, Infrastructure authorisation, Latest news and blog, Real Estate, planning and regeneration.